Imaginary Life

Episode 10: ON CONNECTED VOICES

Episode 10: ON CONNECTED VOICES

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Transcript:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a feature length podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In this episode ON CONNECTED VOICES, you will hear from two guests, prominent in the world of internet access and freedom of speech.

First you will hear the from Walid Al Saqaf. Beyond his daily research and development work, Walid combines his roles of free speech advocate and software developer to focus on the non-commercial use of Internet and its impact on democracy and freedom of speech.

Walid founded a ground-breaking news aggregation service in his home country of Yemen, which spurred him onto work with tracking Internet censorship and enabling activists and journalists to bypass government-imposed firewalls to access news and social media websites.

Walid is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC) and co-founder of the Society’s Blockchain Special Interest Group. His work in tech development for increasing Internet Access has earned him international recognition, including a TED senior fellowship, and Örebro University’s Democracy Award, and he has been featured by global media such as CNN, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post.

After Walid, you will hear from Bahraini civil rights activist, and blogger Esra’a Al Shafei.

Esra’a is the founder of Majal.org, a network of digital platforms that amplify underrepresented voices in the Middle East and North Africa. She is passionate about music as a means for social change, and is the founder of MideastTunes, where musicians across the world with Middle Eastern and North African origin can share their music that is often censored on mainstream music platforms.

The World Economic Forum listed Esra’a as one of 15 Women Changing the World, and she was featured in Forbes magazine’s 30Under30 list of social entrepreneurs making an impact in the world. She also a senior TED Fellow, and Echoing Green fellow. As an outspoken defender of free speech, Esra’a was FastCompany magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business and The Daily Beast one of the 17 bravest bloggers worldwide.

I hope you have time to sit back, relax and listen to this podcast with your headphones!

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WALID AL SAQAF

Walid Introduction.

Yes. So, I’m Walid Al Saqaf.

I’m a senior lecturer at Södertörn University, in Journalism and Media Technology. And I do a lot of research in Internet studies, areas such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, Internet of Things, big data, social media analysis, etc..

In the area of big data, for example, there is a lot of discussion around how to analyse the amounts of data that exists. There are numerous sources of data. For example, we have the social media. One area in social media is network analysis, to understand how people communicate with each other.

What makes them attracted to certain types of content? This is more or less in the marketing domain. So many companies wish to know how to attract audiences would like to analyze this mass amount of data.

And furthermore, there are decentralized solutions in technology nowadays emerging. You may have heard a blockchain, for example. There has been an issue regarding trust or shall I say, distrust in centralised media. And among those platforms that have been often criticised is Facebook. And then you have the notion of politicisation of content online and how to recruit certain elements like bots and hackers to attack individuals online.

Walid Al Saqaf Caricature!

So, there is a lot going on in the media technology, space, cyber space in particular. That’s where I’ve been quite active. I feel that the human rights has a place in this newly developing digital world, and I must say that within the scope of human rights, for me, freedom of expression stands its own ground and is really an important aspect for us, particularly those who come from the Middle East, as I originally am from Yemen, though I’ve been living in Sweden for a while.

I do attain my identity as a Middle Easterner and try to promote freedom of expression in the Middle East in any way I can. And I feel that technology in various forms can be a supporter or a helper in this space, particularly in the area of eliminating censorship. When it comes to censorship, there has been a lot going on in the last decade or so.

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On the Arab Spring

You recall what happened during the Arab Spring? And well, some people don’t like to name it that way. But nonetheless, the popular revolutions that took place in the Middle East, in Yemen, for example, in my homeland, we had various platforms that emerged at the time. And much of what has been published on these platforms was user generated. So it was users trying to promote their ideas, get their voices heard through the Internet, because in places like the Middle East, China and elsewhere, where there are authoritarian regimes, there has been suppression of freedom of the press and media and expression in general, particularly as the mainstream media are controlled by the state most of the time.

And so, and individuals ended up finding the Internet as their refuge. So, they used it to promote their viewpoints, expressed their opinions, have things published that may not otherwise not be published. So during the time of the Arab Spring and even before that, I had been working on developing a news website- well you can call it a news aggregator website – which collects various forms of content from Yemeni news websites and then promotes these based on the clustered information. For example, if there has been an incident, how did various news websites cover it? It was so the search engine would aggregate and cluster information so that people would get a mosaic of views on the particular incidents. And so over time, it grew and became one of the more popular websites in Yemen. But the authorities at the time, led by Saleh, President Saleh, who used to be an authoritarian leader, ended up blocking the website.

I recall the day I was opening the website, trying to reach out to various users and understand how things are going. I realised the website was no longer accessible in Yemen. Since then, I’ve become quite an advocate of against censorship and trying to use tools to promote freedom of expression online and circumvent censorship. Because the first thing I thought is that the Internet itself is not controlled by anyone. So, the authorities in Yemen may well be able to stop certain individuals from accessing a particular domain, but they cannot stop the internet as a whole. So, I ended up building tools. One of them was called Al Qasar. Al Qasar is an Arabic word, meaning the circumventer. And I built it mainly for the users in Yemen to access my website at the time. It was called the admin portal. So, whoever wanted to access news content published on my website, would use Al Qasar.

And over time, I realised, OK, this is not only a Yemeni problem, it is actually a Middle Eastern problem and maybe even a global problem, because there are many countries outside the Middle East that also censor and still ‘til today. So, the tool ended up becoming a hit. Generally speaking, it got used in many countries such as China, Iran, as even as far away countries as Australia and the USA, where certain types of censorship would take place. For example, in closed environments, in particular, working environments, etcetera.

So, it ended up becoming a tool that was useful to many individuals. And so alongside working on Al Qasar, I also started searching and researching and understanding how censorship affects people, what is involved in censorship, why are various tools used to suppress certain voices and how so that became, of course, my Phd. So, I worked during 2011 to 2014 on censorship, circumvention, research and censorship research on the media. And I ended up publishing that with the help of data I gathered through Al Qasar. And so, yeah, it was a very must say, eventful journey in that space. Yeah, but things have changed in the last few years, to say the least. I mean, all the dreams we had in the Middle East and Arab Spring had faded away, maybe transformed to nightmares.

And additionally, much of the technology that initially were used to bypass censorship were actually no longer as effective simply because authorities also evolved. I mean, the way they censor the Web’s websites and content online has evolved in such a drastic way that makes you wonder whether they have their own research teams and various scientists working alongside them, because a typical case is surveillance in the past.

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From Censorship to Surveillance

Censorship used to be like the first intention or objective of the authorities. And so, what they ended up doing actually is still censoring in such a way that would allow individuals to access content, but then they would be monitored throughout this period. And if caught, they would then be prosecuted or penalised. So, it made people, yes, able to access content, but always mindful of the fact that they may be watched. And that is even worse kind of censorship.

To be honest, because if you know that you being tracked all the time and any action you take on a Website, particularly if at that website is known to be anti-government, for example, then you are exposing yourself to a greater harm, greater risk. That is what drove me to consider surveillance as perhaps the second evolutionary stage in the form of censorship. Technically speaking, as well as traditionally.

It creates not only censorship on the technical aspect, but also internally. Or maybe one can call itself censorship and it causes people to no longer trust their own judgment when using technology. So, it’s quite a frightful scenario. I’m not sure how one can confront that because of the fact that a lot of users aren’t media literate. They don’t know how technology works and operates.

So they are sometimes taken advantage of. I mean, one cannot overstate the impact that the scandal of Facebook camera’s analytical, for example, had caused in terms of distrust of media companies and media technology in general. And so, I mean, we are now at a very different ballgame to sort of speak as something that requires much more strategic thinking and long-term vision by researchers, activists alike.

Blockchain technology potential
But there are certainly some promising technologies, in my view. Among them is blockchain technology, because one thing that it introduces is the elimination of the central authority or what we used to call the owner of the media technology. And so, what happens in a location environment is that instead of having an individual entity or one single entity in charge of storing the data, the data itself becomes distributed.

So it is stored on various platforms, various servers across the world. And these servers, each individual server alone, cannot control the types of content that it saves, etc. because it’s built around a consensus mechanism. So, you have, for example, in the case of Bitcoin, which is the first location, you have thousands of nodes across the globe recording the same data and ensuring that this data is protected from malleability or manipulation.

And so that leads us to consider this as a way to ensure that and no one single central authority is in charge or is in control. That is one positive thing I would consider in location technology. Another thing that is also likely to be of value to activists is that it becomes censorship resistant in a way, because if you think of having your content published and this content becomes part of a blockchain, then it is no longer possible to block the central, let’s say, database that used to publish content in the past.

Now you would actually have governments actively find out and or shut down or shut access to any of the nodes of the blockchain that are ever in existence. That would be a very expensive procedure. Economically speaking, more expensive than the value that governments would have.

So that’s something that I think would be of interest to activists and those involved in freedom of expression. And the third aspect that I think would be valuable is something that we at the university here said in turn are beginning to research, which is confronting fake news.

And the way it works is that if you have original content being published by, let’s say, an entity such as an official or a celebrity. This content can have its original copy saved on the blockchain. And so since this content is possible to verify through it, since it is signed within a private key, something like a digital signature. So, this information would then be related or better connected to the originator or the creator. No one would be able to forge this content because it’s signed, it’s encrypted, graphically signed, and it’s known to the lot belong to a certain individual or entity. And so over time, record of creative content that’s original becomes established on the blockchain. I mean, this is a project that we are working on today on the university.

Developing a user case for blockchain journalism

We’re trying to see if this could develop into a user case for blockchain in the journalism space so that if the individual journalism items are stored on the blockchain or at least their hash, which is like a code connected to it, is stored on the blockchain, then it would be possible over time to find out what original content has been published throughout the years. And at the same time, we would identify elements trying to forge content and at the same time eliminate the possibility of fake news going to the mainstream, because mainstream, let’s say, social media or any form of platforms would all be able to verify and double check if that content is in fact on the blockchain.

And it was signed by the original writer that the no, I mean, I can identify and relate to. And if it’s not, then it has not proven its authenticity. So that’s one user case that we are considering researching today. And we hope to come up with some papers on this in the future.

If you think of media as a product, any product cannot be worth anything unless there are consumers of this product. So, in the case of news content, people have come to a phase where there is so much distrust that there are those who never believe what is published anymore. And media in its various forms, including, for example, the extreme types of media, right wing or even the extreme left.

I mean, various forms of media and propagating messages that are not factual. This obviously led to a cycle of what one can call confirmation bias tendencies, where people only tune to the what they think is correct or factual. And this brings us to the notion of extreme opinionated content reaching the mainstream as factual content, which is dangerous.

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Polarisation

If you only confine yourself to your own bubble of information or thoughts, you can never change your mind. I mean, it’s rarely that you will need to change your mind because you’re surrounding ourselves with the same type of content. And so that causes polarisation. And when you are in a polarised society, that leads to tension and possibly violence. So it’s a massive threat to democracy as we see it.

So, one thing that I would consider as helpful in the long run is to establishing better ways of verifying content, meaning that it would be possible to be more objective than simply saying this is true and this is not. For example, by providing evidence verifying if factual content through, let’s say, use of tools such as in Asia, forensics, for example, videos that have been produced that are fake can be traced to their original copies. So original content.

So that would mean that there will be more media literacy requirements not only on behalf of the public, but also journalists themselves. They need to be trained so that they understand what is objectively factual and what is an opinion. And that’s something we are working on at the university. We feel that education is key to helping confront the ongoing slaughter on journalism as a profession, as an industry, and hoping we hope that through going back to the basics by verifying content before publishing.

Ensuring the public understands what the verification tools or methods or steps are and how one reaches to those conclusions. If we do that, then journalism would perhaps survive. One reason why people also don’t trust the media as it used to because they realize their interests being served and the typical example that they’re offered often. And when we talk about countries such as the United States, where capitalism is reigning in, as you know, and it is more of a polarised, either Republican right wing media, or Democratic leaning left wing media, that led to the belief that if there are interests involved, or if it’s not purely for the public good or public interest, then it means that these interests will take over the professional journalistic ethics or principles.

Jeopardising or compromising these ethical principles of journalism would lead to a downgrading of the whole profession for everyone, even those who are honest and trying to cover facts with integrity. Yes, there is a very evident decline in trust because of these private interests. And while I cannot offer a solution, there are some better examples to follow. For example, the public broadcasting sector in Sweden, Scandinavia, etc. that are based on fees paid directly or through the tax system.

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Public TV and crowdfunded channels

I mean, the Scandinavian examples proves that there is some premise in having a directly funded media organisations such as Swedish TV or Swedish radio, which are said to be among the most trusted in the world. And percentage of relatively speaking. If you have that opportunity, then that would help ensure that journalism remains faithful to its principles and to ethics. But on the other hand, this is not possible in all countries. I mean, in this case, there are other examples such as The Intercept or The Correspondent.

These start-ups that are looking to not necessarily getting money from every single individual or all the population, but from those who are able to afford it and who believe in the message of journalism. They can cover every single thing, but they can dig deeper into investigative stories that are of grave importance, such as issues related to politics or corruption or mismanagement. I mean, serving the watchdog role. So he has there, as I can see, challenges, but they’re not insurmountable, we’re able as homo sapiens to evolve and find ways that allow us to overcome them.

Net neutrality

So, I mean, with new technologies come various challenges, and one challenge that came with the Internet is the need for the protection of net neutrality. And net neutrality is basically ensuring that Internet service providers treat content of all types equally without privileging or giving advantage to certain types of content. A typical example that is offered is when you offer one company faster speed, access and throughput so that it can promote its content and it loads faster on your screen. Another company offering another type of content, for example. Or maybe it’s not favourable to the internet service provider.

No throttling, no shadowing, no blocking and no paid prioritisation, Image from IP Vanish VPN

They are capped so their content gets loaded much slower, which means that you’re giving advantage to certain companies that are offering content over the others. And I’d say it’s counterproductive in the long run because it leads to creating bias, creating favouritism. That means that the internet is no longer the open space for all to contribute to and to access. It will be skewed to those who pay higher or who are more influential. So, it causes to fragment the internet and make it more like islands than a whole global space where everyone is welcome to produce content and consume content. Additionally, that creates also a major obstacle to newcomers and start-ups and smaller entities who would find themselves competing with much bigger entities. And that’s capitalism at its worst because it makes them stronger and richer, richer and the poor poorer. So, it creates a divide.

Net neutrality is opposed by many, including, for example, the father of the Internet, Vince Cerf, who adamantly opposes trying to control or govern content because the Internet was built around open standards, open infrastructure, and these types of filters or controls affect this seamless design of the Internet. And then this obviously results in portraying the technology as not open and not fair to everyone.

Concentration of Power

Another challenge apart from what I’ve mentioned already about distrusting the Internet for various reasons, such as the fake news phenomenon as well as net neutrality, that’s the limits to net neutrality is where there is what we call the ‘concentration of power’ on the Internet. And this leads to a looking at the Internet as privately-owned corporations controlling vast amounts of it.

And that’s actually reality, unfortunately. If you look into the top domains that are being accessed online, you would find five or so controlling more than 90 percent of this bandwidth and traffic that is in the public domain. This is maths, of course, excluding what is called the deep web, which is the ones that are not necessarily public.

So, these companies, such as the Googles and Facebook and Apples and these are in fact having a share that is disproportionate to what they’re representing. If you look into the population distribution across the globe, you would also notice that these companies are mostly located in the Western Hemisphere, in fact may mainly in Silicon Valley.

So, they are not at all representative of the diversity and of what we see around the world. And add to that the difficulty for companies to emerge. And in less fortunate societies such as now countries in developing countries, because they do not have the same authority, you’re already behind and those at the very forefront are running much faster, so it’s extremely difficult for you to catch up.

This disparity, I believe, is one reason why some countries such as China and Russia that are already involved in building their own internal or intranet instead of Internet being the global space, they are focussing more on closing down their environment and not allowing external entities to penetrate.

Closed walls and fragmentation

China has been relatively successful in the fact that created its own search engines, created its own social media, and Russia to some degree is following the same footsteps.

And additionally, this would serve as a model for other countries to begin to realize alright, since these conglomerates based in the US are in the forefront and it’s not possible to compete, then let us just simply close access or confine ourselves to working on what we have internal. And this leads to nationalism on the rise and leading to more people no longer communicating with others across the globe and contained within their own bubbles and their own national boundaries.

And that’s fragmentation. That’s clear and simple. So even with the infrastructure that exists today, fragmentation online is still possible. And the fact of the matter is that the most and the highest concentration of cameras detecting any group of people is in London, not in Beijing.

So, you can say that this has become more of a competition between governance. Who is able to surveil more people in a shorter period of time and using much more advanced technology?

Deep surveillance

What is scary a little bit now is that not all of this is transparent. So, you find that the obvious scandal over NSA and the Prism and the Snowden revelations, these have showed us that much of what is happening in terms of surveillance is underground. It’s happening behind closed doors. What we are seeing is the tip of the iceberg. And that leads us to consider the fact that if we learned about it only with these leaks, then that means that with the repression of WikiLeaks and Snowden etc., governments are hoping that whatever they do next will be even much more discreet and much more hidden.

The stealth mode operation that will take place in the future are going to be even much worse. And add to this the new challenge of having to deal with new technologies such as 5G, which, as you can imagine, is now on one of the main conflict issues between the two main powers, China and the United States. This is pointing to a future where there would be competition in terms of open standards or let’s say, standards of technology. If the Chinese end up being the one that set the standard for 5G, then that would put the U.S. as at a disadvantage. But at the same time, even though it’s going to be open standards, the technology that accompanies open standards might not necessarily be open.

That leads to risks of hiding certain proprietary code that may end up surveilling not in the hundreds of thousands, but in the billions of people. And so that means with faster technology, with more efficient, effective, robust technology. There would probably be more politically oriented acts of surveillance that would them further, in my view, damaged the trust in the Internet.

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The race towards 5G

It’s a matter of who will control technology because it’s a multi-trillion dollar industry. You know, likely whoever controls 5G will now be the next dominant superpower.

China has grown over the years because they thought of it as slow and steady. They don’t want to leap forward too fast and then fall too fast as well. So, they’re taking it incrementally. And so, they built this stealth mode, very peaceful and very quietly. And now they’ve reached a tipping point where if they secure the next 5G and having 5G as their own standard that they step, then they would actually flip the scale and take over.

The U.S. has been involved more with the short-term investments of selling arms and war profiteering and trying to dominate in that respect and getting big oil deals. But Chinese have been investing long term and very cleverly in this technology that don’t necessarily get the results right away, but they are not for wars.

The U.S. have always been for wars, from Vietnam to the Iraq war and Yemen. So, there are different mindsets here. And I think the Chinese are winning the long run because the United States, they don’t have the same stamina. They cannot fight (wars) forever. There will be a collapse of their economy if they keep on only depending on selling weapons and only certain types of technology.

Potential for change

I mean, I do not want to leave you all with this dark themed ending. The real situation we have now is that technology, with all its negatives and positives, are a conduit. Eventually they are in the hands of individuals and we can use them in whatever way we see fit that serves our purposes. But then when you look back in history, you realize that those who you abused technology did that without us knowing whether that technology would be useful or not in the long run. And so, there is this a very popular saying that humans generally tend to underestimate the long-term impact of technology and overestimate the short-term impact with the Internet. And there is also this notion of decentralized blockchain solutions as having maybe a short-term impact in the way that they are facilitating cash transfers as the case of Bitcoin.

But the long-term impact might even be much more drastic in the sense that it would facilitate to some degree. Decentralisation of communication, as well as storage of data and also leading to a revolution in terms of smart contracts. They basically automate execution of contracts. You can actually have this contract with all its points embedded into a particular piece of code that would then be stored in a box. And so, it becomes permanent. So, these things are rather ambitious on the surface, and they can be used positively to make things much fairer and have people get what they expect without it, say, meddling or intervention by third parties. But they can equally lead to unpredictable things, for example, to the shrinking of the labour market for regular jobs that end up being useless because everything can be done automatically through code.

Technology is evolving, so if I were to explain the process of censorship moving from extreme rigid blocking to surveillance. This in itself is a story, autocracy or authoritarianism has braced or evolved its ways to control. That’s one thing. And equally, technologists and activists need to also evolve in ways so that they can catch up and blockchain is one way in which they can experiment, because it has this possibility of escaping centralised rule.

So, there is a lot to digest.

We’ll wait and see how things evolve.

END

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ESRA’A AL SHAFEI

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ESRA’A INTRO

My name is Esra’a Al Shafei. I’m from Bahrain, where I still currently live, and I’m the founder and director of Majal.org. Majal is the Arabic and Persian word for ‘giving away’ or ‘creating an opportunity’, it’s MAJAL.org. For the last 30 years, Majal has served as a network of digital platforms that amplify marginalized and underrepresented voices.

Esra’a’s caricature!

HOW IT STARTED

I first started it as Mideast Youth and that was in 2006. I started it because I really felt that there was a major gap in how young people in the Middle East, how we communicated with each other. How often times you saw in the blogosphere, Arabs were writing primarily for Arab audiences, Kurds were writing primarily for Kurdish audiences, and we were all really still very separated and isolated from one another.

So, the idea behind Mideast Youth is that we were going to have a group community, where we have all kinds of ethnic and religious minorities; people with all kinds of political and social beliefs and sharing the platform to talk about our everyday lives.

It was at the very beginning, very difficult to attract an audience. We started working for it was on a monthly basis. We had to go from one community to another, asking if this is something that they would like to be a part of. And most people were really excited about that they liked the idea of sharing an environment sharing a platform, rather than having a personal site because for a lot of people they also were having an issue creating an audience for one specific blog. So, when we combined all of these voices in one place, we started seeing that the traffic was tremendous, the opportunity to create podcast, videos, campaigns together were a lot more effective than if we were working very individually.

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What it Mideast Youth was

It was really just a WordPress blog. At the time, we didn’t have many developers that we were working with but even the blogging format itself was very restricted. So, I had to learn how to develop WordPress themes how to develop plug ins. And I started creating a very interactive format, because we didn’t want people to feel bored by words. A lot of people felt that there were a lot of long articles. There wasn’t a lot of interactivity going on. So, we had to incorporate video.

We started working on animations. We started doing satirical videos. We started actually doing comics. And the comics were very popular. We were doing it in Arabic, Farsi and English. It was very satirical, and people liked that — they liked that humour.

They just were really excited to be a part of something different at the time. And that’s exactly how we started attracting a bigger audience, it was because it was very unique, it was very home-grown. It was very easy to get along with other authors, because everybody wanted to get their word out.

If somebody wanted to appear in a podcast, and they didn’t know how to do it. there were always people available to help with production. This was during a time in 2006 before Twitter, before Facebook was really huge. Before there were a lot of you know interactive ways for people to communicate. Because to be interactive, you really needed to be a developer, to understand how to integrate them, and how to use them.

The funding was hard. Myself, and another partner of mine, that was sort of volunteering his time, we got together, and we started doing development work for our clients.

All the money that we got we put back into the website. That’s really how I got the hosting funded. That’s really how I started getting more support with design and development for myself, to make sure that we weren’t doing just everything, but there were a lot of things that I wanted to do that I was not capable of developing because I simply didn’t know.

So, I was able with that money to hire more people to help me build out this platform to something a lot more robust, a lot more accessible.

Yeah, that’s really how it took off.

All the users were co-creators I was really managing the platform itself. I was also blogging actively, but I wasn’t the main blogger. There were a lot more authors that were far more active than them myself. We then had editors. We had availability in three languages; English, Arabic and Farsi. English and Arabic were the ones that were most used for the region because a lot we had at least 30 percent of our authors were Kurdish. And we had maybe 10 percent Turkish. Then we had maybe 20 percent Iranian, and 40 percent Arab.

For them to really communicate effectively the common language was English. Although there were also a lot of Arabs and Kurds who spoke either Farsi or Arabic, as well or Kurdish, and they were able to kind of move from one platform to the other.

And we did a lot of translations as well, because sometimes there would be an beautiful article written in Farsi that we wanted to make accessible around the world, because it was also not just a way for all of us to communicate with each other, but also a way for the world to understand what young people in the Middle East, in their diversity, how they were thinking.

We were battling so many different stereotypes, not just from within, especially with government propaganda which was really pitting us against each other in a very political and strategic way. We had to fight that, by owning our own voices, by making sure that nobody was going to hijack our narrative, and really being forceful in making sure that everybody equally had a voice, regardless of your race, ethnicity, your religion.

This was really important for us. We just were fighting a tremendous amount of propaganda, where they say members of the Baha’i faith are spies, members of the Kurdish community are militants and terrorists. It was very important for us to understand where this hostility was coming from and making sure that as young people, we didn’t replicate it in each other and in our communities.

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On Women

It was maybe 60 percent women and 40 percent men. We always naturally attracted more women for some reason. The entire team is women now. I think women always felt the responsibility to speak up, the need to speak up. There is a lot of strength and courage in women, that I think is sometimes underestimated.

I think we had more to prove in a way, because we were always disregarded. I, for example always applied for jobs in the technology industry, and they said “we only wanted male developers to apply” and this really was hurtful obviously, but that’s really what made me want to pursue web development.

I had I felt I had things to prove for myself, but also things to prove to society. It was very difficult at the time for women founders to get any funding for a Start-Up for example, because a lot of the funding was going for male owned businesses. Back then it was the discrimination was very clear amongst investors. They will give away a million spread around 40 different women. Whereas, it’s very easy for a male founder to raise 50 for one Start-Up. So, there’s still a huge disproportion when it comes to the way capital is being spent.

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On MidEastunes

One of the projects I’m currently working on is called MidEastunes, Midesast Tunes. M I D E A S T U N E S dot com. which has now become the largest web and mobile application for independent musicians in the Middle East and North Africa, who use music as a tool for self-expression and social justice advocacy.

We have over 2050 artists, we have shared more than 12000 individually produced songs and tracks — all originals. It’s the largest platform for its kind in the independent space, but it still is incredibly difficult to find for it and no one really takes it seriously as a Start-Up. And I think one of the reasons is it is very much a women run.

We get a lot of requests because on our about page we don’t say who the founders are. We don’t say it’s women run. The focus is really on the artists themselves. The majority of which are women. As soon as we speak with potential investors, in the region or donors, they get discouraged by the fact that it’s founded in Bahrain, rather than a place like Dubai, and run by women, rather than the typical you know male founders that you would usually find.

SOUND: 5. TAMTAM IM SORRY MAN SAMPLE.wav

Mideastunes vision

The other thing is that we’re very vocal about the fact that we are here, to ensure self-expression. We don’t want to be the next Spotify. We don’t want to compete in the music industry. We want to make sure that music is accessible and not censored, because right now for example for Spotify, for Apple Music for all of them to be present in the region they have to censor content.

That means that you don’t hear many songs that are about LGBT youth. You don’t hear many songs about religious freedom, about gender identity. This is something that is available very prominently, on MidEastunes, and something that we’re proud of hosting, where they get rejected on other music platforms because they’re too political, because they’re too controversial, so they don’t get hosted. But for us that’s exactly where we want to make sure that their voices are heard. Because this is a way for us to bypass censorship or surveillance through creative means.

We have maybe 400,000 or so across the region. But that’s only people who’ve signed up. That’s not including people just come in stream for free because it’s 100 percent accessible. A lot of free users are in places like Iraq, are at places like Libya, where they can’t afford, you know, to pay a subscription fee. So, there’s a lot of models that are applied by music platforms that are actually completely irrelevant because then it’s only the privileged people with access to a credit card that can actually listen to music.

We have an offline listening model as well, where you don’t have to be connected to the Internet. You go in and once it loads up, that’s it, you can listen offline for as many times as you want. And this helps for people who are in places like Gaza for example.

It was very important for us to find models about ‘how do we make this as accessible as possible?’ and as inviting as possible for young artists who are not quite production masters, but they’re starting out and they’re using music as a way to share their stories and their personal experiences. And a lot of musicians talk about trauma. For example, created bands in refugee camps. They created bands and situations where they’re facing warfare, they’re in conflict zones where they’re facing complete and utter destruction of their properties and their homes and their livelihoods, and they turn to music as a way to cope, in places like the Middle East and other situations where they’re constantly faced with political and environmental instability, music becomes a way for them to reconnect. With their past with their present, to ensure that they have a hopeful future and many of the songs are very uplifting.

They are there to tell people don’t give up and we have the right to be happy. We have the right to live with dignity. And change will come and happiness will come, and a lot of young people listen to this and they’re very excited by that, because every day we’re faced with bad news, with news of destruction, with news of poverty, dealing with these situations and these economic disasters where people are losing their homes, they’re losing their lives, they’re being imprisoned for expressing themselves.

Music has really lifted a lot of people from that kind of hopelessness.

SOUND: 6. TAMTAM WONT GIVE UP.wav

On documentary film

So, we created a short documentary film about the intersection of music and social change in Palestine, and it basically follows five musicians in their everyday journeys, and why they turn to music as a way to cope with their everyday lives.

The film is called ‘From Beneath the Earth’ and right now we have showed it at several festivals especially those that are dedicated to Palestinian cinema and film making and it’s going to be available online pretty soon. But right now, it’s mostly just a trailer that’s available. One of the reasons we didn’t create it online is because we’re also looking for a funder or a sponsor to help us develop the page to put this all into context to do more production work so that this can actually become a series. The next ones we hope to have is in Saudi Arabia. and Jordan. So, we don’t want just to end it there in Palestine. but we want to go country to country and really show the world what young independent musicians are doing,

Please Vote!

We get so upset when we see that other people have the right to vote in a genuine election and not use that right. Because that’s what you when you end up with a situation for example. People said don’t worry about Trump. It doesn’t concern you. Of course, it concerns us. We’re thinking now about a potential war in Iran.

We think when people elect a president in the U.S. they’re not just electing a president for the US, they’re electing a an individual that has the capability to override Congress. to override any other decision and create a war.

The weapons industry is massive. And so, you see a war in Yemen, then you see a war again in Iraq. And then you see a continued war. I mean it just constantly going on and on and all these proxy wars. And in Syria. Who’s paying the price for all of this? Innocent civilians. And so, it’s very upsetting for us when people abroad don’t take the right to vote seriously or abstain from voting because they should really understand the foreign policy. How is this going to impact not just people in that country but the entire world, because security is not the same thing from one place to the other.

I don’t think future generations can ever forgive what happened because they would be the ones mostly paying the price. But we are in some way. but I really fear for what’s about to come. We will leave the next generation with absolutely nothing.

On Environmental issues

Young and young people in the Middle East are becoming more and more aware of climate change; of environmental issues. Now we see a lot of young people really advocate for things like plastic waste or for things like water and air pollution.

The unfortunate thing is that young people also have a lot of fear and anxiety speaking about these issues because of the large powerful corporations often receive funding and support directly from the government.

So, censorship is not only for political content or political expression or political debates or religious debates but really a lot of it is also about the environment. You can’t challenge any corporation or factory that is run by the government because it is seen as you’re threatening their authority and it is seen that you’re criticising the government; criticising any government for not doing enough to protect people.

For them that is threatening enough. And it makes it very difficult for people to be encouraged to talk about these things.

The other issue is grants. Young people do not receive grants because donors don’t want to support controversial things, which is so unfortunate that the environment can be seen as controversial. It’s not nothing to do with regime change, it’s nothing to do with dictatorship. That is for no matter what we do no matter what form of government we have. The environment is the only constant we have and it’s not being respected at all.

And for this reason, it does become harder for young people to take it upon themselves to take action. But more and more they are trying to figure out a way to collaborate with the government, so that they are not seen as dissidents, so they’re not seen as revolutionaries or rebellious, because they would have to pay the price for that depending on how vocal they are.

So, we also have a lot of different challenges and obstacles when it comes to who can sign up to become a legal entity. A lot of environmental entities every year are rejected by the government because they’re not seen as necessary or they’re seen as they would be a threat or contrary to what the government wants you to do. So I have many friends and colleagues who have started environmental entities and even consulting firms and trying to do so much around this topic who have been rejected and their bank accounts frozen. Oftentimes they’re not able to accept any grants and they’re not able to have any sort of partnerships. So the road is blocked there and I think a lot of people don’t sometimes understand the challenges that come with speaking up. It’s not that young people are not aware the awareness is there and it’s becoming more and more apparent. But the issue is whether or not they have the permission to be able to do all of this.

And a lot of young people don’t want to do it with a risk. They want to do it properly. They want to do it lawfully. They want to do it with the assistance of local schools. They want the assistance of government officials to make sure that they’re that their speech is protected that we’re able to criticize a factory for polluting our seas and it doesn’t matter who owns this factory if it’s government or not that we have the right to criticize because it’s impacting our water we have the cancer rates are very huge in the Gulf region in particular the waste is enormous. We see it in our sea. We see it in our drinking water, the lack of filtered water where everybody just imports water bottles and increases the toll on our plastic waste.

So, I mean it’s a disaster really.

On Optimism

I have to be optimistic, because optimism is what keeps you going at the end. It’s if you have the huge responsibility to speak up for injustice you can’t be pessimistic because otherwise, you’re not doing this work. I’m optimistic because I knew from the very beginning that this work was always going to come with a huge amount of challenges. This is a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of resources. It takes an emotional toll, it takes a financial toll because oftentimes we end up funding this work ourselves due to lack of resources. It’s very taxing.

Internet Voices – LGBTQ

I would argue that we have slightly less homophobia in the region because we have access to platforms and tools that enable us to hear the voices of the LGBTQ communities where they are coming out and to and telling their stories about how they were abused about how they’re persecuted and judged simply for who they are. And it makes it very hard for people to hate something that they don’t understand, just because the government said this is a western phenomenon and it’s disgusting and it’s unIslamic and it’s all of these different things.

Well now you have a lot of people who are very active Muslims and they’re also identify as being part of the queer community. And that was very important for a lot of people to truly understand what this community was all about.

SOUND: 7. TAMTAM Stand Together-Solidarity Sample.wav

Migrant workers

We have a significant amount of migrant workers in the Gulf who are literally enslaved, not just abused but really enslaved on a daily basis, due to something called the sponsorship system, or the Kafala system, which gives their employers ownership over them. This is a completely legal thing that is still active in our societies and this is something that we have to document and fight.

The migrant community, the majority of them are from Southeast Asia, primarily India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But where the domestic workers a lot of them also come from Indonesia from the Philippines and more and more we are seeing it from Uganda from Kenya. So it’s very diverse, but they all share very similar challenges, and some Embassies are more active than others, but a lot of the time unfortunately they are left to their own devices. A lot of migrant workers come out of desperation and after being recruited by a lot of rogue recruiters who are taking advantage of them, and it’s really difficult for them to fight for their rights when they’re being abused in this way and what they’re taking advantage of.

And we see a lot of reluctance now for people to just accept things as they are because when we go and write their stories, when people see these videos of workers talking about how they were stuck for 20 years without their families how they’re starving how they’re constantly living in poverty how they’re unable to get access to their documentation. Raped, beaten, sexually harassed abused forgotten or even sometimes their very own embassies abandoned them, and they were just there living on the streets with nothing with no access to their family, with no way for them to ever go back home.

On persistence

This is very important for us because well when we brought these stories two to life when we started documenting them and we haven’t done this for 13 years. It took 10 years for people to listen you know– only 10 years. So sometimes people don’t understand the need for persistence, because when you’re that persistent when you’re that consistent, also, in the work that you do, people eventually have to listen to you.

And have to listen to the cause and have to listen to these voices that have been ignored for so long. So, a lot of the times people tend to think especially nowadays with new media is oh well if the campaign doesn’t succeed in three months we just move on or we move on to a different theme or move on to a different topic. But that’s not how change really happens at the core. We might change one or two stories we might save one or two lives but at the end of the day are we challenging the system the status quo that enables this in the first place for that to happen. We need a decade would be two decades.

We need a lot of consistency, consistency and a lot of persistence and this type of work which is exhausting.

I’m not saying that all of us should go on the frontline and fight and risk our life but there are many ways to do that while remaining within the limits.

SOUND: 8. TAMTAM IN THE END SOLIDARITY SAMPLE.wav

On resilience

In the context of human rights resilience means supporting all communities equitably. That includes the

sharing of resources and technology needed to bring communities sustainably out of poverty, and to effectively

recover from a crisis. And to do so not on their behalf, but rather in an inclusive manner to ensure that their needs and voices are not hijacked in the process.

Middle Eastern youth have developed a different identity than what it was before. Whereas before we actually embraced anonymity and now you see a lot of young people actually embrace their connectivity you know showing their faces to the world. Video blogging is really massive in the region. Podcasting, snapchatting is really huge. And so, you see a lot of interaction. More so than it was before.

But the interesting thing is that there’s also kind of two separate identities as well. There is an identity that they would take on in public and there would be an identity they take on in private, where they’re more expressive and more political. And you see a lot of people sharing political thoughts back and forth all the time and the main thing about that is that you actually see people be arrested for private discussions; for discussions they’ve had on Facebook messages, or WhatsApp, and that only shows the power of surveillance and the power of censorship. Oftentimes you don’t need to use the Internet to be publicly present, and to be very vocal but sometimes, just having that one on one conversation is enough to land you behind bars. So it’s very difficult for people to draw the line.

I think people are speaking up. I think access to the Internet is encouraging and enabling people to speak up and have a voice and have a really strong presence and to be able to control their stories and their narratives and that gives me hope because it means that we can no longer allow propaganda to get away with lies to get away with abuse to get away with persecution because we are actively calling it out. We are documenting it, and we are hoping to correct it. And the most important thing that comes out of all of this is solidarity.

There is a lot of hopefulness because now people understand.

SOUND: 9. TAMTAM SOLIDARITY OUTRO.wav

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CREDITS

SOUND: TANYA SUMMER GARDEN

TANYA:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature podcast, ON CONNECTED VOICES.
You can find more information on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast

We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

The music and sound have been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find Diego on diegolosa.blogspot.com

Many thanks also to Esra’a Al Shafei and Walid Al Saqaf. You can contact Esra’a via mideastunes.com and Walid via Södertörn university in Sweden.

TamTam is on mideastunes.com, as well as Spotify and Apple Music.

If you would like to find out more about nature-centred mindfulness, please the work of Ajay Rastogi on foundnature.org.

You can also follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

Episode 9: ON ART

Simple Landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/4ae3f02b

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/72c1084f.mp3

Introduction:

TANYA’S VOICE:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a feature length podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology. In this episode, ON ART you will hear the voices of two Norwegian artists, Catrine Gangstø and Laila Kolostyák. Catrine and Laila are committed to using ART as a meeting point for engaging the local community in thinking about equity, identity and our inner and outer natural worlds.

But first you will hear a few words from my colleague Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. Ajay works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand, India. He set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as visitors and homestay guests interested in learning about more meaningful forms of sustainability.

Catrine Gangstø is the founder of the Peace Painting Foundation, that runs painting workshops for children, youth and adults all over the world, including war zones. Through her idea of Painting for Peace, Catrine has engaged over 3,000 workshop participants and many more through travelling exhibitions of their work. Catrine has proven that painting can be a safe space for sharing difficult experiences and emotions as well as a way to communicate hopes and desires for peace in the world.

Then we hear from Laila Kolostyák, a visual artist who works with snow and ice. Laila and her colleagues have engaged a whole generation of young people in creating and enjoying outdoor snow and ice experiences that culminates in the Borealis festival in Alta, which lies 375 km north of the Arctic Circle.

I hope you have time to sit back and enjoy listening!

Peace paintings from Norway

AJAY: My name is Ajay Rastogi, and I’m joining from the central Himalayan region of Uttarakhand state in India.

It’s a lovely sunny morning and we have the mountain views of the high Himalayas in a very spectacular way. And that reminds me of the work of Katrina and Laila, as they do in Norway and all across the world, with the children as well as with all age groups, inspiring the people to connect with the art.

It’s a bit of a concern that art is increasingly thought of as something which is only about creativity and not as something which fills us with joy or something that we need to do as a part of our daily schedules are something that we need to connect with in a deeper way. As a community because somehow the distinction of work what should be there vs. what is leisure is somehow the art has shifted to the world of leisure whereas what we feel is that art and innovation and creativity was a part of our every walk of life.

Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

We did it in food and we did it with clothing. We did it with the shelter. We were very deeply connected in how we can have a community deeply connected with the landscape drawing resources from the landscape and making them artistically feasible for us to enjoy. And in a very communitarian way. Somehow, we feel that it’s the art which brings a lot of cooperation and collaboration. Art is also the measure of expression when we create works of art with natural Lord and in nature. Then I think we are definitely also a lot of harmony in more leaning. So there is a considerable amount of happiness and joy.

So, I think engineers can create art. Doctors can create art. Lawyers can create art financial people can create art. Art also creates us. We don’t just create the art. And I think that’s where we get in deeper in connection with ourselves with our bodies with our minds without emotions and we feel that empathetic connect with the community at large.

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CATRINE INTRO

SOUND: Skype ringing.

Catrine: My name is Catrine Gangstø, and I have grown up in the northern part of Norway. and I am working with peace painting. It’s an Equality Project for Children and Youth. We started in to 2007, locally, but very soon it became international because we had grants from the foreign departments to try out the way of working with children and youth in other countries.

Catrine on holiday in Bindalen, Norway

It’s a lot of years since they had the idea in using colours as the main platform when we work with equality among children and youth. And that is because I can see colours in words. It’s called synaesthesia. I can see colours in words and everything.

I think I was thirty years old when I realised that it was not common to have this skill. When I was a child …for instance if I didn’t like the Colours that occurred on the on the city, I didn’t want to go there. It was the same when everything. It forms my antipathy and sympathy, when I was a child and young woman.

When I was studying art history, teaching and different religions, different beliefs. And then they had this idea to try to make a equality project for children and youth. And using visual art and making texts.

it became a big success locally.

CATRINE ON SEVEN NEEDS

First of all, we always have an inspiration time, where we talk about seven human needs that everyone has, and we knit it into colours, but in the end, we say every colours is in every colours. So it’s open you can connect all you want.

Maybe they just start painting. But we talk about seven human needs as physical needs. emotional needs, and concentration so you can learn, and love and communication, and everyone need to to use their imagination. We talk a lot about this.

Your imagination, everything starts there, and we talk about to make something, make a good environment, to make friendship. Everyone has a need for making things. And then they start painting.

Catrine with Laila in Iran, where they held peace painting workshops for kids of all ages.

CATRINE ON STARTING PAINTING IN WORKSHOPS

We have a method to make them start. For instance. we always use wide brushes in the beginning, and we always have the same size in every board 50 x 70 centimetres, and they are sitting there in front of this quite big board. It’s ‘more easy’ to start. It’s not about the details. It’s about the colours and movements so it’s another way of starting.

CATRINE ON POSITIVE FEELINGS WORKSHOPS

We work with all ages. It can even be children who are two years old and then maybe they have their parents together with them or grandparents. And up to 20 30 years old. It’s very nice to be a mixed group with different ages.

I think it has something to do with the inspiration time we have in the very beginning to make everyone equal.

We focus on the nice things in life. It’s a positive focus.

They also take part in the inspiration time. Which colour do you like just now? Maybe in the evening it may be another colour. Everyone chooses and associates to the colours they choose. Yes. That’s the very beginning. It’s very important for them to take part in the inspiration time and in a way, we get known to each other.

Peacepainting in Iran.

CATRINE ON COLOURS AND MEMORY

We connect the colours to the body in a way.

Colours is visible light. And I always say what can we see when it’s the sun and the rain at the same time and then everyone says the rainbow. And I talk about in our bodies, we have a lot of water up to the shoulders……. In my head I imagine that we have a it becomes a lot of beautiful rainbows in our bodies this just like raindrops increase when it has been raining and the sun is coming and making a lot of diamonds in the trees.

And then we can talk about seven human needs. Everyone has and we connect it to colours. And to the body. Then everyone feels relaxing because we feel equal, and after this session we started, they started to give from their own life experiences, when they start choosing colours one by one.

So for instance one child can choose a colour. And then I say. “Oh, what do you associate with this colour today” and the child says “it this colour it reminds me about A trousers my grandfather used to use and I can see my grandfather is not alive any longer.”

So, you see it’s very personal what they come out with. So when everyone has given an association to the colour they choose. We have quite often we have been through all the human rights in a way.

It’s a kind of de- focused communication.

Yeah it becomes a very good atmosphere.

CATRINE ON HOW MANY PEOPLE?

10 is the best number. That is the very best. Quite often we need one to translate. It goes very well it’s not the big thing, because we are in this abstract language.

CATRINE ON CHILDREN’S  MESSAGES

We have been Refugee camps in Lebanon, and we have had workshops, in other countries with children who lost all their relatives in war. And we can see that children who has this terrible experience in losing or their relatives in war, or some people who were close to them. They are really really wanted their painting to go out in the world. So we bring their painting out in the world and making exhibitions. So, the children and the youth can have the feeling that their messages are being heard in a democracy.

People who are taking big decisions that influence on a lot of people need to hear from children and youth. It’s a good inspiration for children and youth.

I remember one painting it was a really big flower and the earth was….full of zig zag – very hard. And the painting was called “to rise from the darkness” so it was it was really easy to see that the children really wanted to look forward to the future.

Peace Painting workshop in Iran, 2019

CATRINE ON DE-FOCUSSED THERAPY

It’s a kind of therapy, but we do not focus on it. Every time a painting is painted. It is a mirror.

And they are sharing what they have inside to the rest of the world, and they feel that “I have something important inside” that that people really appreciate.

So that is the environment we are making the workshop.

AMBIENT SOUND: 3. Kids-playing outside.wav

Art is a very good subject to use as a tool.

What if equality could be the normal way in acting and forming systems on the earth? It would be so interesting to see what would happen with um Ecology with Nature, with the wars and so on.

It’s so amazing to see who a like people are all over the world, and what they want to describe, which message they want to give it to each other.

We have been in a lot of different countries and cultures. Tunisia, Lebanon, North Korea, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Poland, Russia, Portugal, Bulgaria, Finland.

It’s very alike, all over the world.

9.07.

SOUND BRIDGE TO LAILA

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LAILA INTRO

Well my my name is Laila, last year. I’m an artist and I live in Finnmark, Northern Norway, in a little village outside Alta,. [00:04:51][9.7]

ON ALTA CITY PARK

I am working with the Alta city centre making an ice park at the moment.

I involve a lot of people in the projects like schoolchildren. 16 years old, everybody in Alta at that age make an ice sculpture. From the transport they move the ice, and then the builders build with the ice, and then professional artists and then, friends and sculptors from Russia come in to the project, and there are volunteers, there are people, who call me.

There is an architect office, all of a sudden is just growing and growing and growing, and what we’re doing is we are actually creating a park where you can spend time out of doors.

Little by little winter tourism has become very important. So, now there are tourists come along, they also sometimes ask if they can help and they participate.

And so it’s like this become this kind of meeting point, the whole park, of lots of people, and we start already working outside in January, and it’s finished in 7th of March.

And it is sort of growing and sometimes I don’t even know how many people are working there. So it’s interesting. But the main thing when I started the project was I think Alta should be a nicer place. The winter is really long and I used to really hate living here because it was so cold.

DIEGO ICE SOUNDS
ON ALTA END OF EUROPE

 

Alta has two months of polar nights from from November until end of January. It is really dark with no sunshine. And we are five hundred kilometers approximately above the Arctic Circle, and Alta is situated by the fjord, not far from the Arctic Sea from the Barent Sea so it’s quite far north. And this 3 hours drive and you end up at North Cape.

So that’s the end of Europe. So you can’t get further north in Europe.

DIEGO ICE SOUNDS

Yeah So that’s where I live. You know sort of on the edge of Europe really cold

Laila On Play

When I was a child I loved being outside. I just. And I was never too cold because of course you have lots of sensible clothes on. So you just enjoy being out of doors. And snow and ice have for an artist and for a child has enormous potential for play and for fun.

You know you can create and you can build really fast, really big, or you can create little things and you can do what you want and you’re using your body all the time you are working so you get tired, but then you start again you rest a little bit and then it’s like, um,I don’t know. It’s really fun. People ask Why are you doing it? Why are you working like this? You are a grown up woman. Playing in the snow.

That’s the only way I can live here actually!

On not liking the cold.

You know I left Alta because just because I hated the cold, I went to Paris when I was 19, Working as an au pair in a family. It took me twelve years before I came back to Alta to live here.

Yeah first I was living in England. A little bit in in Holland, in Hungary, In Oslo, I was living in Bergen, and then I went to Lofoten and so little by little I returned to the north. But I was really really dreading the cold winter and the only thing I was thinking was I was longing to go away. And what can I do inside?

And then somebody asked me “Would you like to participate in an ice sculpting workshop?” And I said No, no I’m an artist, you know Ice is not a serious material for an artist.

Then I went anyway. And then they gave me this kind of really thick clothes like children wear, you know like a whole suit. Now really thick and big. And we went to this lake and there were people from the Ice Hotel in Sweden doing this ice course.

And they gave me this tool, really sharp tool.

And then there was the ice and then I just remember the first the sound of cutting into the ice. This “shhh” it was just amazing. It was just like hooked immediately because this has it’s such a nice feeling of just the movement of with a sharp tool into the ice.

And then all of a sudden ice transformed, it became really interesting.

ON THE MATERIAL OF ICE

I started to look at it differently, I thought you know it was first of all it’s interesting as a material because you could see on both sides. At the same time all the environment around it is reflected into the ice. So if you put an ice sculpture outside then all Nature is reflected into it.

Sculpting snow

 

And then when I was working more with ice I was started to reflect on the fact that it is water. You know it’s life. I am 70 percent water. This is hundred percent water. So it is only 30 percent difference between this block of ice and me. And every life is dependent on water.

So… So it came in a way from being a material that I didn’t take seriously it became a material that I don’t think there is any material as interesting for an artist.

And then the changes all the time with temperature lit… Slight changing time in change in the temperature. And it goes from ice to water, from and it’s all the time. From being concrete form to vapor, you know.

That’s why you when you put things in a deep freeze and you have to cover it cover it otherwise it dries out. So ice is drying out all this time, it disappears in front of your eyes.

Ice from Nature

In Alta we are so fortunate that it’s so cold that we go to a lake, and we take out the ice from the lake. So we don’t have to produce it. I mean the nature is producing it for us. [00:13:32][11.2]

The way the ice look like it. It depends on the temperature, that winter or that month. Before you take it out you can take it out when this really is day and night or leave it until the March is it up thicker and you can even take care of the ice so that it will grow thicker, and you can take off the snow that protects the ice. And then if you don’t take away the snow then the snow can push down the ice into the water and the water will come up and will form white ice on top.

So you’ve got two qualities of ice. Ice is all the time moving because there are forces, big forces is ice when it’s created. So there are cracks there are bubbles that little fish, even you could find leaves, and dog shit, whatever.

The water is never the same. You can take it out from a river.

The North

1000 YEARS BACK

And then when you take the ice out then you can look at it and you can see Ah it’s been a cold winter or it’s been a mild winter and then you will see that’s yeah.

You Can see that. And then that’s how they can read. You know in Greenland when they drill big holes or in the Antarctic, to to do research, on one winter, you know. So we got one winter and we create from one winter. But they they have you know they can see 1000 years back and see how the climate the temperature and they can measure it. So it’s interest… So there are stories in the ice, you know.

Temperature

I check the temperature every day several times a day. What kind of weather would it be and what I look at is is not if it’s windy or snowing or is it above or is it below minus. I don’t want to see the red. I don’t want it to be warm in the winter.

So because it means as an artist because it since we are working outside that our things that melting so that we have to try to protect it or whatever. And I can remember my childhood in March. Maybe I’m wrong but this is kind of memory I have that it used to be minus 10 during the day and minus 20 during the night.

This is sort of my memory and we didn’t. I remember because it wasn’t until end of March we would go up into the mountain, go skiing because it would be too cold to go skiing very far. So we will stay. Not so far from the house. And every single weekend I used to go skiing with my parents in the mountains. But we didn’t do that. We didn’t do that in March because March was too cold. And then now when I look, you know March is sometimes you have 8 degrees you can have like a warm spell in February. Eight degrees, really really really warm, maybe for a week sometimes, but not every year is like that. But that’s sort of the occasional year. And I can’t remember that from before you know.

And since I’m working with ice I’m really really sensitive all the time you know how what what is the weather like tomorrow.

DIEGO SOUNDS WARMING

In Kirovsk, Orenburgskaya Oblast’, Russia.

LAILA: [00:18:26] What I can see is that you’ve got trees growing higher up. Little by little there are new trees coming higher up right there before there were just mountains and rocks. So you can see trees are growing faster and higher. So it is getting warmer. It is getting warm. You can see that. [00:18:42][15.7]

ON PREVIOUS PROJECTS

9.00. As an ice artist, I remember when I really really took it it was actually when I brought 15 tons of ice to Copenhagen, in 2004. That was supposed to be the coldest week in Copenhagen. You know they used to have cold winters in Copenhagen before. [00:19:02][4.9]

So we would do this ice project doing Sami manifestations of Sami artists in Copenhagen. So we created it but it was so hot it was so hot the whole time. And it was like 12 degrees and just that night until the morning the wind has changed and shaped the ice and it was just disappearing but at the same time it was really beautiful. So then I started to interest in melting ice. You know what is happening to the ice that is melting. ´

And then I got into reading about the Tundra and I did a project for a festival outside Paris where I brought twelve tons of ice to Paris. It was next to Paris, to a city called Lime. And I made an ice circle of twelve tons of ice.

It was six metre diameter, and then put earth on top, and grass on top and it was melting.

Even it. It was 24 degrees on the opening night. It took like a month to to melt. And then a year after when I came back I could see the change of the different grass that was growing up.

Because the grass that we had left on top people would be stealing. You know so. So. And so when the ice was gone people took the grass and brought it back to the back gardens. And it was like a year after. There was a circle of new grass.

Sculpture from Crazy Saw Ice sculpting competition. Team- the Ice Queens!

Laila on how she started.

My first year I was doing ice sculpture, with just one star made of ice. I just remember I made a star. And that was my first ice sculpture. At the time because I just moved back to Alta, I didn’t have a studio. And I wish I had a studio, and I had all these plans in my head. I need to build a studio, you know. When everybody else had left the lake, I took the last block of ice, and I carried it back to my car, it was quite a big block of ice and drove home. And then I took my shovel and then I shovelled outside in a big heap a snow. And then I put on some lights. I put this block of ice, I put on the radio, and I said I got my studio, but a studio outside.

I don’t need to build a studio. I already got a studio outside.

DON’T LIKE THE COLD continued

All of a sudden I realised that it wasn’t the cold I was hating. I really liked the cold. I didn’t like ‘being’ cold. It’s really simple you know because that’s what people don’t like. They don’t like being cold. But if you is it’s it’s the clothing that’s important that you have good shoes you covered with wool underneath and you have proper clothes and then and then you are free when you’re outside. You can sit down on the ground, you can lie in the snow, or you can do whatever you want, you can sit on the terrace and have a glass of wine, you don’t have to sit inside, you can look at the stars and the Northern Lights or whatever.

There is always light!

THERE IS LIGHT continued

I remember I came back from Paris just before Christmas and my son came to get me at the airport. Well when I said to him driving through the snow covered landscape and there were stars and a little Northern Lights and God it’s light, it’s really really light, and he said “Mom it’s not like it’s dark.” There is no sun. It’s dark. And I said No no you compare compared to anywhere in Europe now it is really dark. It’s really dark. It’s black because all snow makes it light. You can see the landscape even when it’s dark.

This reminds me of my grandmother and I used to go into her house when I was little and she would sit in the darkness complete darkness, during the dark period. You know the polar night period and I wouldn’t. I would ask my grandmother why are you sitting here in the darkness and he said. Come come have a look. If when I’m in the darkness I can see the little light outside.

And if I put on the light I don’t see anything.

The snow and ice project, it gives sort of an identity to the young people, so that now everybody expects that when they are in 16 years old they’re supposed to do an ice sculpting course, one that the high school building department Transport Department they all enjoy and the art department they all take part, in this creating of the festival As long as well as professionals.

THIS YEAR- THE RIVER & ALTA AKTION

And this year we are doing a project about the river. Elva and that’s because this year it is the year of the wild salmon.

And then I thought that would be good to focus on the river, you know. The river is all cultures, you know agriculture, people’s lives are from the river. So we are making a big river going through the park full of live from from the mountain plateau. Until the fuel within the fjord will be an ice skating rink and it is also voyage from the Sami drum, until the fight, for the Alta river, Alta Aktion that was here in the 70s, ‘80s.

For five years there was this big battle against building out the river. Eventually they lost but the sound we gained. Well we as a Sami we gained our Parliament Sami Parliament.

Laila with her colleagues with Elisabeth Kristensen and Mari Charlotte Bottolfsen in Kirovsk, Murmanskaya Oblast’, Russia.

2019-2020 The river project and copper mining

The Norwegian government just decided to put a lot of waste from our copper mine decided to give permission to copper mining company can put it in the field not so far from here yeah. A copper mine in it up of yours. And then you think. How is it possible today with all the knowledge that we have. Do we need this copper so badly that we cannot think where to put the waste? Even if it’s a bit more expensive.

I think this river project that we’re doing, maybe people will think well it’s it’s still an issue, because we’re dealing with the environmental battle from the river of Alta. And this happened when I was young and you know so my father he was working for the environmental organisation. He brought me to do all these demonstrations and manifestations against building out the river. ALTA AKTIONEN no you should read it.

DIEGO SOUND

Life is diversity! 

In Alta. There is a tradition for having a big market twice a year in do in November and in March exactly when the festival is so traditionally the Sami would come from the mountains.

To sell their stuff and the Russians would come and we would all meet and we. And now today is exactly the same. A lot of people from Russia come to sell their products and there are the Sami people selling their handicrafts or local produce, and making teas, or meat, or Thai people making making.

And there there is a guy in the van. He’s selling kebab. And I think he’s from Syria. After the meeting of the Samis, the Norwegian and then the Kvan, the Finnish people. So it’s a meeting on. The basis of the local people here are are a mix of people. We had a really long time ago. No now we got people I don’t know from 40 different nations living in Alta.

The identity of a place

When I talk about identity for me what’s interesting is is what happens now, that we can we can share and we share. We share the cold, you know doesn’t matter what kind where your father came from. If you live here it is cold, and You have to deal with the cold.

——————————————

Neighbours.

15.40 We also have been working a lot with Russian artists and this year. We also will have Russian students coming from the Arts School on Murmansk. So it’s really I’m really happy for that because in a time when when you are not so you we are all the time looking for faults. And how we cannot cooperate. I think it’s even more important for artists and people to actually to connect and try to still work

We have to to create a better future. It’s not possible to close your eyes to your neighbour. Not Possible.

The basis of what we are doing is actually. You know it’s cold. So if it’s if it gets warmer we can’t do this. snow and Ice thing. And it’s really strange because when I was young tourists came to visit the north to see the midnight sun came here. So that was not. There were no tourists at all in the winter period. And now it’s upside down. Because of that I think it is because of the climate change. All of a sudden people are interested in the cold because Europe doesn’t have any long winters anymore. So people come here and and discover that yeah.

We need to take care of the cold.

And for the local people it’s actually a resource, it’s it’s a part of our identity. You know imagine if we didn’t have any winter you know what would we do without the winter before we used to think what we do when we have the winter you know. So it’s it’s turned upside down.

I think the period when you see the most people are out of doors and spending time in the centre is actually during the festival, when we are making snow and ice out when it’s the dog sled race. So it’s one of the year time of the year when we build up everything that there are really a feeling of life. And things are happening otherwise I think it’s quite dead.

Because people staying indoors

20.54

On teaching kids

The most important work is actually you know like the teachers are doing. Or artists working we teach kids you know. That’s the the work that hasn’t got any recognition you know.

So if you are an artist and doing paintings and only thinking about yourself and put them in galleries, then you are a great artist, but if you work with kids, or you work with snow and ice or whatever then then then it doesn’t happen in that way. You see. And therefore I think a lot of artists would avoid exactly working as I do and the kids they’re just there, you know what I think is really really important for any artist to consider where they are, you know and be a part of where they are. I think that’s it’s like it’s like a duty. I feel I have a duty to give back what I’ve been given.

Outside with kids exploring nature

DIEGO SOUND

PLACE IDENTITY – ALTA AND STRANGERS

You know why do I do it? Yeah, I know the reason: I want Alta to be a better place than it was when I was growing up, that’s why I do this, because it’s it has been a very closed place. You you are skeptical to strangers you you’re not supposed to talk to strangers, and all that, and you and I always saw strangers it was the most interesting thing of all!

You know people who didn’t know what they were thinking and they were looking different and they were eating different food. I think all that’s interesting. It makes your life much more rich you know. So I think there’s not enough different people were not allowed to be as different as we are but at the same time we are being different. We are the same.

I really liked the fact that you don’t know who said that a stranger is only a friend that you don’t know yet.

If I was really realistic I wouldn’t let any of what I’m doing who would work with snow and ice and who would work with kids. Kids! You cannot be environmentalist and not think about people not think about the kids.

I think artist and doing art with children is quite important. And then doing it in a way that it resembles Play.

Land Art with children

In the autumn what I did is land art project with kids that were they were seven years old and every day there would be a class coming to the beach area in autumn. There is a beach and a forest is really beautiful. With lots of old pine trees.

And it was quite interesting to see because I have been in France and seen the little children going to the kindergarten, and then where they are in little squares with concrete and they play out and they are dressed like little women and little with skirts and short trousers, also like that in England.

And then you see this little Norwegian children. I think that made me really proud, because they are really sensible dressed, with high boots and and suits to sit on the ground, and they all prepared a little packed lunch, sausages, and they stay outside maybe even if it’s really really cold like it was minus 4 degrees or wind, , sleet and they didn’t complain, you know? They were just getting on with it and then they were grilling our sausages on the bonfire and they had all the equipment that they needed and they were all prepared and they were all really happy being outside.

So I think the kindergarten and teachers in this in the younger age in school are doing a great job with the kids being outside.

Actually I’ve I’ve read that that French kindergartens and and I come and are coming to visit Kindergardens in Norway, just to see how we actually manage to have kids being outside. I mean there are kindergartens and even here in the Arctic there are almost all the time out of doors, almost all day.

——————————

DIEGO SOUND KIDS PLAYING OUTSIDE

STORY OF THE BIRD.

LAILA: We had like a kickoff for the project at the high school with all the builders and the people from the Transport Department….

We invited the historian, to come and talk a little bit about the history of the river so that there were all everybody will have like a little rucksack with information, and and then he was telling me about something I didn’t know, that there is exists Alta. Is this the name of the town now. And the part where I come from it was called Elvabacken, and that it existed an even older name that was called Sortcots, and it’s the name of a bird in Norwegian its called Svennesnipa, so it goes is the name of a bird. 

 It is a bird that migrates. It migrates to the tropics from from from Lapland. And you don’t find this bird in southern Norway or in southern Scandinavia, so it migrates between Lapland and the tropics. And and it’s the woman that is the beauty of it has the nice feathers and she lays the eggs and she leaves the upbringing to the male bird, and she is really bossy, and she is if somebody is attacking, Then she is the one who defends him and the kids. But in the end she leaves and she goes off to the tropics again and she leaves them all the work with him.

And she also has several partners.

So it’s a world where it’s upside down. So it’s a little bit. So I just thought it was really funny that this bird has given the name to the place where I come from.

22.42
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CREDITS

DIEGO SOUND: TANYA SUMMER GARDEN

TANYA’S VOICE:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON ART.

You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast.

Catrine Gangsto’s website is peacepainting.org.

You can find Laila Kolostyák on Facebook, through the website, icecircle.info and her own website, lailakolostyák.com. That is (spells it)

Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife production. We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature. Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast.

The music and sound has been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find Diego through his website diegolosa.blogspot.com.

You can read more about Ajay Rasogi’s nature-centered mindfulness and the village homestays on foundnature.org. You also can follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. So please don’t hesitate to email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

 

Epiosde 11: ON NARRATIVES. COMING SOON.

Transcript to the Nordic By Nature Podcast, ON NARRATIVES

Tanya Intro:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature. A podcast on ecology today, inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In this episode ON NARRATIVES, we hear from four people working to shape more constructive narratives of our relationship to nature in order to increase environmental protection.

First, we hear from Tom Crompton, founder of the Common Cause Foundation in the U.K. whose research into values shows that the dominant narrative of the selfishness of humankind is deeply flawed.

Then, Paul Allen from the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales presents a positive and attainable vision of the future.

We then hear from Yuan Pan, whose work integrating biodiversity into the Natural Capital Framework at Cambridge University aims to help businesses and policy makers make smarter decisions and start understanding the direct benefits from acting as stewards of the environment and nature’s resources.

Finally, we hear from Rewilding expert Paul Jepson, who is also active in science communication, particularly in the area of nature recovery, science-policy interfaces and public participation. In 2018, Paul published two papers, one with Frans Schepers and Wouter Helmer on putting rewilding principles into practice and a second where he proposed that in Rewilding we are seeing the emergence of a new ‘Recoverable Earth’ environmental narrative. . Paul currently works for the UK-based consultancy Ecosulis Ltd.

SOUND BRIDGE

TOM CROMPTON

Tom Crompton Intro

So, my name’s Tom Crompton. I direct a small not for profit called Common Cause Foundation which works on people’s values, what matters to people, and what shapes what matters to people, and our perception of what matters to our fellow citizens.

As soon as you begin to ask that question of what it is that underpins public appetite for ambitious change, you are led the social psychology of a values, of human motivation.

So, there’s a great deal of data on people’s own values. And there’s very little data on people’s perception of their fellow citizens values.

Tom Crompton from the Common Cause Foundation.

Researching the Impact of Values

We’ve used a standard values questionnaire, the ‘Thoughts Values Survey’

So, we have used that to start to ask people about their own values and then we’ve asked them to think about a typical fellow citizen, to respond about the values that they feel that typical fellow citizen holds to be important

 

What we find is that with regard to people’s own values, and in line with a great deal of other existing research, we find that people tend to place particular importance on what we call ‘compassionate values’.

So, these are values of friendship and kindness and social justice and equality and honesty and probably also include values of self-direction, values of curiosity and creativity.

So, people hold those values to be very important. And they attach relatively low importance to a set of values which is psychologically stand psychological opposition to those compassionate values. We call them self-interest values, and these include values of concern for finance financial success, or public image or social status.

Around about three quarters of people attach more importance compassionate values than they do to the self-interest ones.

A Fundamental Misunderstanding

So, then when we move on to ask people about what values they feel a typical fellow citizen holds to be important, we find that there’s a widespread misunderstanding that people typically underestimate the importance that a typical fellow citizen places on those compassionate values, and overestimate the importance that they place on the self-interest values.

That doesn’t incidentally seem to be as a result of reporting bias, you might imagine that a participant is perhaps reluctant to acknowledge the importance that they place on those self-interest values, but we are able to control that and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

What we find is that the more inaccurate a person’s perception of the typical fellow citizens’ values, the less connected that person is likely to feel to their community, the less likely they are to have participated civically, recently the less likely they are to voted, and the less supportive they are for action on a range of social and environmental issues for example, homelessness or climate change or inequality, and the lower their wellbeing.

The simple truth that actually our typical fellow citizens care more about one another in the wider world than we might imagine, and we project that where we’re successful in conveying a more authentic understanding of what a typical fellow citizen or a typical person holds to be important.

Then we would anticipate that that would help to strengthen a sense of community strength and commitment to civic participation, strength and public support for action on social and environmental issues and strengthen people’s well-being.

Why Do We Think Others Are Materialistic?

I think we’ve perhaps been told for so long that we have essentially atomised self-interested individuals out to kind of optimise our own… And our outcomes… For our own selfish purposes. You know, it’s such a dominant understanding of human nature that lends right to a right to the natural sciences right to the social sciences that we’ve come to believe in.

And of course, it’s something that when we see people interacting with one another in large numbers it’s very often in a commercial environment, the kind of environment that we know tends to do more to cue or pry those more self-interested values.

So, what we’ve begun to do is to ask what kind of organisation might be able to work to convey to people a deeper appreciation of the concern of the importance that most people attach the most compassionate values. 

Social Purpose driven Organisations

If an organisation and an organisation sees or identifies a sense of social purpose in deepening the feeling of community and well-being among the audiences that it engages and then I think a wide range of ways in which he can begin to communicate with those audiences in ways which will facilitate that. I think it would be simply part of it could become part of the patina of how an organisation communicates with its stakeholders.

On Greater Manchester

One area in which has been real interest in this work is in the in the city’s resilience teams have a team that is actually working to think about how the people of Greater Manchester respond to disasters. And of course, traditionally that’s work which has tended to focus on the practicalities of disaster or emergency response. But increasingly there’s recognition that the importance of working upstream that actually it’s how, um, it’s how citizens respond in an emergency. It’s the values which come to the fore in the course of those responses which is so important in shaping how, how collectively, a disaster or an emergency is met.

I think there’s also an opportunity to develop. I suppose a sensitivity to seeing where those values are already in action. And then suddenly or gently drawing attention to them. I think you know so often, we don’t recognise those values in action when we encounter them.

I think the important thing to do perhaps is to develop a sensitivity to seeing those values in action, and then creativity and imagination in thinking about how they might be made more salient, and that’s going to be different in every different organisational context.

Misperceptions from media and advertising

If you think if you think about the reverse side of it if you like. The perception, the misperception that most people are driven primarily by self-interested or selfish urges, that something which is implicit in so many of the ways in which we’re communicated at. By such a diverse range of different organisations. It’s not that that’s coordinated in any way. It’s just that it becomes so deeply embedded in our understanding of what it is that motivates one another, that those are the motivations we reach for, and tacitly connect with. In the course of communicating with people.

The question would be, the question that really interests me is and how do you move beyond the situation with people who are finding themselves to a common interest to a common concern, in the ultimate sense by seeing ourselves as human beings, we recognise that there are values of concern for one another in the wider world that are an inherent part of that identity.

SOUND BRIDGE

—————————————————————————

PAUL ALLEN

Paul and CAT, The Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

My name is Paul Allen. I’m an electrical engineer by training. And in 1988, I left Liverpool and came to work at the Centre for Alternative Technology in XXX in XXX quarry, and I’ve worked here now for 30 years doing A whole range of different jobs.

The Centre for Alternative Technology was set up in the early seventies to help rethink the role of technology for society to make technology work better for citizens, but within the limits of the planet. So, we began experiments with a live lab with a real living inside community, looking at how we provide food, how we deal with waste, how we make the lights come on, in different ways, to try and make them more resilient, done in ways that the people living with them better understand them, and to reduce our ecological impact.

Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

Well back then what was being talked about by the alternative movement was very far from the mainstream thinking. But it was at the cutting edge. And part of it was to have a holistic approach not just to focus on electricity or heat but to think about land use to think about food production to think about composting and waste and how all of those different systems can intersect as well. So that thinking has progressed over 45 nearly 50 years at CAT.

And now increasingly it’s moving into the mainstream, and becoming law, because the mainstream understands the physical limits of the world but also how to build better value better returns for human beings in return for what they’re looking for.

We have to recognise now we are in a climate emergency. We don’t have the option of business as usual for another 15 or 20 years. Now is the time.

So that’s the sort of thing I would suggest that process that needs to go through in all of business and industry almost to light a little candle as the voice of the future generations around the boardroom. Are we really behaving in the way that we need to, to respond to where we actually are in terms of human beings providing for the needs on earth.

Centre for Alternative Technology
Machynlleth, Wales, U.K

What is your company’s mind-print?
I think Corporate Social Responsibility means looking at the – not just the footprint of the business but also the ‘mind-print’ of the business. Looking at me the marketing and the advertising and how that affects social values and the idea of associating to be a successful family or to be an attractive male you have to have a big car, is something that really needs to be challenged, and something in the car industry needs to take responsibility for, because people do need personal mobility, because we want to take the kids to see grandmother. But there’s ways of doing that with buying the service, and having a car when you need it, rather than owning one, that can foster reliable cars, that are designed to last longer, where that sort of resilience and longevity actually helps the business model, rather than designing short life cars that are far bigger and heavier than they need to be. But backing up that huge amounts of merchandising and advertising and product placement.

So we need to challenge those norms.

Transport as an example
The Welsh government is supporting people who use transport, public transport, there is a free bus passes the road and on Saturdays and Sundays, to encourage more people to think about public transport.

We’ve also reached a point in terms of data harvesting where anybody in any town or county can put up a map where everybody puts the journey they want to do so that the local transport providers know who needs to travel where and when and what time so we can develop public transport systems that meet the needs of the citizens.

We’re not talking about delivering a utopia. We’re talking about just changing the infrastructure system, so human beings can continue to evolve within a safe platform, for the next two three four five hundred years.

Technology has to work within a plan that works and is driven by and has social license from citizens. We can’t have citizens lifestyle driven by what works for technology and the profit of corporate interest. And that’s the sort of shift in understanding that I think needs to really get out there.

Good practice

There is an enormous amount of really exciting really good practice happening.

I’d recommend you have a little look at the Ashton award winners’ website. Yeah with some really good videos and fabulous projects that are really happening on the ground now we just need to be like bees and cross fertilise cross pollinate these projects and help other people find them.

Basically, the problem we face is carbon lock-in, how we deliver housing, transport, food, lightbulbs coming on, that has co-evolved with fossil fuels over hundreds of years, well 150 years at least. So, we need to challenge those complex intertwined relationships. One of the most exciting ways that we see that is smart innovative community scale city scale projects.

One example is something like energy local where if you’re running a community hydro you don’t sell your electricity to the grid at 5:00 being in the house next door buys it at 15 even if they’ve got a virtual private wire network set up where people around the community hydro can buy the electricity cheaper and the hydro gets a better price for it and it builds relationships with citizens.

Or another good example might be at municipal level where Nottingham was running a project called Robin Hood energy. And essentially, it’s run by the Council for the people, buy and sell electricity as affordable as possible to bring the price down and citizens of Nottingham That’s an example of doing things for municipal benefits not for profit.

There’s so much good stuff out there and it is beginning to grow. The trick is to cross fertilise it so everybody can find out and access the really good ideas so we’re not all starting from the beginning.

There’s been technological advances in energy storage but there’s also been big advances in restorative agriculture and rethinking how we can revitalise natural systems to increase their carbon capture as well as improving resilience and soil quality.

I think one of the biggest challenges we face in rising to the climate emergency challenge is the people who are thinking about the solutions are quite often in their own individual silos of expertise.

There are so many core benefits in thinking about energy, food, transport, buildings, together in a single scenario. It also means that very, very big systemic changes as well.

We need to think about how we are supporting land use, what we’re using land for, drawing upon our indigenous wisdom of tradition.

Because if we look back at farms in Wales or in Scotland or in England over 30 40 50 100 years we can find fabulous records of how we used to farm with more cereals more crops more oats more turnips more vegetables and we can draw upon the wisdom not to go back in time but to rethink farm use in the 21st century in a way that helps us understand what the land is produced in the past and can produce in the future so that we can begin to produce a more healthy mix of food for better matches what human beings need to eat whilst also restoring soil quantity quality, and thinking about resilience because we live in turbulent times this turbulent climate turns into turbulent political times and having more resilience built into the system and more local connections and stronger skills verses that are more flexible can help give us a better system to pass over to future generations.

A shift in mindset

Well I think it’s very important to look at the history of seeing ourselves as part of nature. We are nature protecting ourselves rather than we are environmentalists protecting something that’s out there called nature that is nothing to do with us.

Nature provides for all of our lives, the oxygen provides food provide everything that we need. We are part of it. We are part of each other. And that shift is seeing interconnection I think is fundamental in helping change the behaviours that we need to see but also making us happier healthier human beings.

And partly I think there’s cultural norms that need to be rethought the idea that peasants work on the land and people who work on the land are poor and people who work in the urban environment are rich successful people, doesn’t really work out. If you look at how people’s happiness is measured people’s happiness is directly related to their connections with nature and the sense of meaning in nature. And then they feel that what they’re actually doing as social and natural worth rather than just churning out money.

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YUAN PAN

Yuan Pan Intro

Hello, everyone. I’m Yuan Pan. And I work with Professor Bhaskar Vira here at the Cambridge Conservation Institute on Natural Capital, particularly incorporating biodiversity into Natural Capital accounts.

Personally, I’m quite a pessimistic person, but when it comes to conservation, thought science, I think we are all quite optimistic. I think most of us are optimistic.

What is Natural Capital?

Natural Capital essentially is an economic term. So Natural Capital is the stock of the world’s natural resources.

The way I see it is a different way of framing the narrative of protecting nature. A story that will hopefully impact with policymakers and businesses. What we’re trying to say is that nature has value towards human society.

And some of that can be economic value, but it can also be other types of body as well. So within this research, we are only focussing on Natural Capital. But of course, I know about human capital and social capital. We’re also concerned with other types of value, like cultural values and kind of the intrinsic value of nature. Nature has value in itself, regardless of whether humans are here or not.

So Natural Capital definitely started out after ecosystem services emerged. So, people tend to use the two terms interchangeably nowadays. So ecosystem services are the benefits that we get from nature. So it’s like a flow of benefits. But Natural Capital is the stock.

And for a lot of businesses, they all doing ecosystem services, valuation or Natural Capital valuation. And I think that’s helping them to highlight that nature is kind of providing a lot of resources for them and they need to keep a resilient, sustainable ecosystem. Otherwise, for all businesses, they have raw materials.

Why take an anthropocentric view?

Stocks will eventually collapse. Basically. I would say essentially the terms are Anthropocentric, so they are human based. Because the definition for both of them is are benefiting human society. But what I have found in my research is that in fact, by using these kind of terms, you’re resonating more with businesses and policy makers, because unfortunately, we do live in a society where most people just concentrate on economic returns. Monetary values and these kinds of terms.

When you talk to businesses, their eyes tend to light up. And the kind of conservation that I did before, a lot businesses, they just tend to shy away from that, I think.

Biodiversity is a very difficult topic within Natural Capital accounting, and my project is trying to incorporate biodiversity in so currently lots of people just ignore biodiversity. And I think part of the reason is even as an ecologist, it’s very hard when I say like, what do you think when I say biodiversity? It can mean a lot of different things, trying to improve the situation with incorporating biodiversity by saying that it does have a lot of value, but the values are hard to measure because it’s the relationships are non-linear and also, they can’t be very easily monetary valued.

Everyone’s hearing this situation about the bees disappearing. And one of the things that people do pick up on when they talk about Natural Capital or ecosystem services is that these are very vital for pollination. But when you look at the research, but we can’t predict what will happen in the future with climate change and with the extreme weather conditions. So, in the future, we might need those other species that currently don’t seem to be performing any functions. But this is the other issue we’ve been talking about that for climate change. There’s, you know, kind of a very specific protection goal like either 1 degree or 2 degrees. And Paul, the reason that I think there’s been more focus on climate change compared to biodiversity protection per say is because climate change is quite easy to conceptualise.

Basically, you have a degree goal that you’re working towards. We can’t we don’t have a very specific protection goal.

Biodiversity objectives?

So, the first question is how much biodiversity do we need to sustain basic functions and processes that we don’t die as a society? But the second question is how much biodiversity do we want? And that’s not necessarily the same. A lot of people would like a very specific protection goal for biodiversity protection, just like climate change is very difficult to actually arrive a threshold value to say how much is it we actually want to protect?

We have a lot research and we have a lot of data, but perhaps there’s no kind of overarching narrative or kind of story that are linking them all together. I mean, currently there are papers regarding that. We need this kind of overarching objective. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of it. This thing called half earth or nature needs half.

It’s a very kind of bold objective that says that we should set aside half of earth for nature.

Basically, I can see that is good to have kind of an overarching, very easy to understand objective.

Functional Traits

I acknowledge the benefits of economic valuation and I have done some projects I’m done. But as an ecologist, I know there’s a lot of things that can’t be valued economically. And one of the things people have been looking into is kind of Functional Traits for like soil, like earthworms, etc. soil organisms or macro invertebrates in the river.  I was interested previously in looking at Functional Traits, so people traditionally look at species as an ecologist. So how many species there is an ecosystem. But what people have been finding ecology is that Functional Traits are important to their body size.

Are they decomposing or what kind of specific thing the insect does in decomposition? And the research has been suggesting that we should be more concerned when a whole functional group goes extinct because then the services can’t be provided.

A case study for Nature Protection.
I’ve got a small case study, obviously, in China. So the lake system I worked on in China. It’s the third largest freshwater lake in China. There’s about four or five major cities around the lake. And what happened was there was so much pollution and urbanisation going around the lake that in 2007, people in one city had no access to tap water for about four or five days because there was a blue green algae bloom, basically that the lake constantly has been growing algae bloom. And it was only then I think the government realised that this is a really serious issue because they had to provide bottled water to the community for about four or five days. There was price inflation in the supermarkets and bottled water. And then they had to get people to clean the decomposing algae in the lake as well. So the whole massive event cost them, I think, billions of dollars to actually clean up.

And what some of the scientists later suggested is part of the reason could have been because a lot of the wetlands were reclaimed around the lake and the wetlands were destroyed. And if the wetlands had still remained as a buffer system for taking the pollutants out, then perhaps they wouldn’t have spent so much money trying to mitigate the risk after it happened. So I think with companies as well, they are looking at how do we prevent the risk from happening rather than let it happen. And then it will cost us a lot of money to actually repair the damage that’s been done.

Nature Capitals, Intrinsic Value and Relational Value.

As a researcher I am suggesting there’s multiple forms of value and not just economic value. And I think in terms of changing people’s perspectives or businesses or policy makers, I don’t think necessarily monetary valuation of either Natural Capital ecosystem services is going to do it. I think there has to be like a change in people’s values and opinions like inherent to the media. We’re trying to, I will say, improved a framework of Natural Capital concepts. So Natural Capital essentially, I think the value that’s coming out from there is instrumental value, basically kind of physical values. We can understand like providing water, providing food, etc. But there is also, like I said, with the intrinsic value.

So biodiversity I think has intrinsic value. You know, despite whether we are here or not that it does have a type of value. And lastly, which is this new type of value which is coming up, is called relational values. So how humans relate with nature and kind of how we make decisions about nature, either from kind of a moral or ethical perspective, regardless of whether nature has economic value.

This kind of moral, ethical imperative to protect nature. I think sometimes it does apply to even businesses. So a lot of businesses, they kind of want to have a good image and part of that good image is kind of doing environmental sustainability work. So that’s why I think Natural Capital, an eco-system services colony, is resonating quite heavily with a lot of the business sectors. As a traditional ecologist, I got into this because I love nature, but obviously working in China, I can see that the traditional approach was not working. A lot of businesses, they might not want to deal with biodiversity because even for scientists, it’s quite a complex concept.

Expanding the definition of sustainable business.

We need to work out a way that they need to be aware that biodiversity is important for their sustainable business. Previously, I did work with our local ecological knowledge in China, and the research kind of proved that we had a lot of experts going out to a remote region trying to find an endangered species and we couldn’t find them.

But I interviewed a lot of the ethnic minorities around there and they said, oh, we saw that species like two weeks ago in that river. And they helped me to map out where they’d seen the species. And it helped us to find the species.

Basically, there was a lot of different subject areas and research that needs to be done. That includes not only natural scientists, bills, shows from scientists, economists, accountants, even philosophers, so….

Connectivity to and in Nature

So obviously, you know, as a young ecologist to many years ago, my lecturers, you know, taught about kind of connectivity within the landscape. There is no point in setting aside, you know, national parks or no go zones if there is no connectivity, no corridors between them. This kind of threshold values that they having set for both of us. The I mean, there has been one which is January kind of 11 percent told percent of terrestrial errors should be protected as national parks, but actually the 10, even a 10 or 11 percent one.

It wasn’t based on scientific evidence. It was based on many years ago it in America. They decided that was this on sounded like a good number to protect national parks. And I think the current scientific evidence is showing that, you know, even like eleven percent, which we’re not hitting anyway in some areas is probably not enough.

Have some way that moved onto the half of kind of hypothesis, the kind of idea.

I think urban ecology is also a very important research area and that you can only consider the ones at national parks, but also the fact with urbanisation that people are losing their connectivity to nature. So even if we end up protecting everything in the national parks. But if everything is so urbanised, then children are not you know, they’re not exposed to nature. They’re losing connectivity to nature. They just like playing computer games. And they don’t see the point in protecting nature. I think in the future, it still won’t work.

END

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SOUND BRIDGE 

PAUL JEPSON

Paul Intro.

Yeah, hi, so my name’s Paul Jepson. I’ve been a conservationist all my life.

I’m currently working for a progressive consultancy called Eco Solis and I moved into the enterprise sector just recently, actually after 12 years directing Masters’ courses in the School of Geography at Oxford University.

Prior to that, I was a practitioner working for birdlife in Indonesia and I started my career in urban conservation in Manchester and Shrewsbury in the UK.

Paul Jepson.

 

Enterprise and conservation.

We now realise that there’s a big role for enterprise in rewilding, landscape restoration. There’s a new area which I’m involved in, which we’re developing, which is working at the intersection of landscape recovery, technology and finance. The configuration of conservation environmentalism does need to change. But if you all work together, you’re more than the sum of the parts.

Really, if we can have change, we need to, you know, increase employment market, if you like. That’s not happening with NGOs, but with technology and actually more distributed organisational types and ways of working. There’s a real opportunity for free enterprise there. We can work for in an entrepreneurial way, for nature, in the environment, in many different sectors.

And for me, the future and the influence comes from informal networks connecting different organisational types in different sectors, working with clients. It’s really looking at code, designing solutions with them, bringing the creative thinking which is encapsulated within rewilding into those conversations.

On Rewilding.

There’s a number of different ways of thinking about rewilding. I mean, my favourite is that it’s just it’s just a label, a label like maybe the labels hippie or punk or whatever, which signify an unsettling sort of reassessment of where we are, maybe a desire to shape up the future. But rewilding is doing that in terms of how we think about nature conservation, our relationship with the environment and so forth.

So, one way of thinking about it is just that new opportunity for people to engage and shape futures, shape futures of nature, the environment, our engagement with it. This is talking a little bit from a Western European perspective, but a lot of our nature conservation has been focussed on protecting conserving benchmark ecosystems or habitats as particular assemblages of plants, specific types of woodlands or grasslands or so forth. Or it’s been about protecting declining species and so forth.

A lot of it has been focussed on elements, units of nature and particular identities of nature. It’s enabled strong law, clear policy targets, management targets and so forth. I think this particularly long term ecology and the advances in that science, which have been enabled by technology, we’ve come to understand past ecosystems much better and come to understand that across much of the world, including Western Europe, grasslands and large herbivore assemblages or mixed wood pastures were the norm and they supported huge diversity and had great resilience and all of these sort of things.

But actually millennia ago, humans wiped out a lot of the big megafauna or we domesticated it. That actually we’ve been living in a world where we’ve internalised ecological impoverishment, both in our culture and in our institutions and in our conservation policy.

There isn’t one nature. There isn’t a pristine nature that there’s multiple past natures. What would happen if, to the extent we can we reassemble in Europe, the large herbivore assemblies?

So things which have been divided like, you know, we only know cattle and horses in the domestic livestock farming. We still have deer in the wild realm. What happens if we just reassembled them all together? There were some very pioneering experiments of this in the Netherlands.

It was quite extraordinary what is happening when this idea of rewilding is put into play. Amazing kickbacks of a nature rebounds at nature habitats on smaller ecosystems like freshwater ecosystems appearing in places which we never knew them. Species which we thought were rare, suddenly returning in abundance and much more dynamic natures. That’s the sort of scientific conservation identity of rewilding.

Us v European versions

And I suppose when we say, well, what does rewilding mean? It means different things to different people. The term originated in North America and there rewilding was much more tied up with concepts of wilderness and maybe Christianity and bring wolves back and top down trophic cascades in Western Europe.

The version of rewilding which I’m involved in is a very pragmatic version which says actually if we’re recovering and restoring nature, we can’t go backwards. We can only go forward so that the rewilding natures that emerge will be different from anything we’ve ever known before. But they’ll be equally as wonderful as nature before. But if we are shaping nature, we can actually shape those natures to solve current problems.

So there’s a very sort of integrated form of rewilding emerging in continental Europe. For instance, on the Dutch Delta, with climate change, there’s increased rain events, pulses of water coming down these huge rivers. But by taking out some dikes, buying a public cultural land a very pragmatic way, using the silt that brick building to re restore these sort of natural river braiding and channelling, bringing in natural grazing. So bringing in herds of of wild eyed horses, cattle, the introducing beavers, again, recreating those large mammal assemblies in these areas, you’re getting incredible nature. But cities and companies have been benefiting from lower flood management and insurance costs. The construction industry benefited from having a source of bricks. People have benefited from just having great areas where you can go and hang out and have a nice time at weekends. And then there’s tertiary tourism economies building of that. So you get these really lovely, neat systems starting to emerge.

Another example of a nature-based solution with rewilding is pragmatic. European version would be based in Portugal.

The kind of climate change adaptation at the centre of the IBM venture is getting drier. There’s rural the population, which is a loss of traditional herding. This is increasing biomass.

That’s leading to intensity of wildfires, which my goodness, what a problem.

But actually doing rewilding and bringing in natural grazing again, you reduce biomass load, so you induce the intensity of wildfires and then you get you can either use them as natural areas for tourism and sort of wilderness type areas or you could do sort of new pastoralist type economies on it. So that’s what distinguishes us as a species on this planet, is the fact that we have this third reality where a lot of what we do and how we act and how we think is shaped by narratives and stories and language and so forth. And many of these narratives, they, you know, they develop over time, they sediments over time, but they really do shape how we think and how we are, how we move ahead and how we relate to each other, of course.

Across the world we are seeing an increasing amount of wildfire outbreaks fuelled on by global warming, biodiversity collapse and climate unpredictability.

Emerging narratives
So I think it’s important we develop a narrative of nature and our relationship with environment, which was a really powerful narrative and it’s achieved much. But it actually is a very cautious and protectionist narrative such that we all sort of wanted to put nature out there and separate and fragile, maybe people who colleagues in other sectors, architecture, urban development, industry or whatever, they haven’t really seen nature as a force which we can engage with to shape futures or shape place based futures. It’s almost saying something is a bit less under threat. We need to put it aside or whatever in rewilding.

We’re seeing a different narrative emerging there that that narrative of empowerment. This is where we’re at. We can’t go back. There’s not a lot point in blaming people. Let’s just stop doing something to make things better. And then there’s narrative elements.

They often talk about pioneer action or people getting together and and through this, starting to reassess how we might do things. Values, world-views and bringing people on board and this sort of momentum.

So, much more of an interactive narrative from which emerges stories of of wellness, I suppose so adaptation, a word which comes to my mind, which you heard, is this notion of offsetting. You know, we offset harm, so companies do that. You know, they’re offsetting their carbon footprint. They’re doing biodiversity offsets. And that’s one way to do it, saying, well, OK. You know, we just feel a bit bad about things. So we’ll we’ll try and offset our impact elsewhere. OK, fine. But again, it’s not saying, well, you know what, I don’t want to feel bad for it. I want to be contribute to a vision and I want to be part of change. Many. Know. I think that’s what many people want.


A narrative of recovery

I woke up one morning. It’s a narrative of recovery. Just was in my head at my breakfast, quickly jumped on my bike, was down into the university and got onto the academic search engines and just started pushing narrative of recovery in two web of science and outputs.

This I mean, a massive amount of literature, but these papers are mental health recovery.

The crucial thing which really grappling me in the link between these narratives and the narratives I was hearing in in rewilding or this new environmentalism is rather than pressuring others to act on our behalf, which is part of the classic campaigning thing of environmentalism.

It was really like, you know, you can’t wait for a national health service or the doctors to sort yourself out. Just sooner or later, you’ve got to start taking responsibility for your own health. And that’s the always the epiphany people have.

And then you start engaging, you start acting, you start beginning just getting together and starting to make projects happen and finding that that new way, that wellness, that recovery in it. So it’s really interesting the term rewilding and how is the original ideas were more associated with classic sort of U.S. wilderness ideas. These ideas in Holland started under the term nature development, which was a sort of technocratic policy, and then the term rewilding has been applied to them all.

Now we talk about semantics, the re prefix. It can either, you know, its Latin origins, it can either mean back or again. And that’s really interesting, that difference. So, what we’re finding is that some people immediately see it as going back, you know, going back to a sort of more wilderness fortress conservation way outside, people telling people what to do.

But actually in this European one, it is really using the rivers again. So, we can re-find engagements with nature, connections with nature.

And it’s really interesting when you look at all of the reworks which the European rewilding seems to align with. So you could say that the way we use urban regeneration, regenerating urban areas is nothing like, you know, you don’t go backwards. It’s always going forward. They look quite different. The recovery, in a sense, you recover a song about injury. You might not ever be the same again, but you recover. How do we think about recovering Earth’s systems, of which we are part of it is the big international agreements and policies, but part of it is just as people getting going on things in their areas, in their competencies, in their places and through that getting this sort of bottom up momentum. We are friendly to the natural asset framework.

Nature Capital or Assets?

For me, capital is quite a linear type of thinking, often capitals. We think about capitals and then they can create flows, you know, so whether it be labour money or natural resources can be an input into a production service.

And sometimes it’s a bit divisive as well. And it sort of gives prominence or pre-eminence to economic logics, whereas assets and assets are actually a lot more meaningful.

I think to people. So, example I use is with culture, with human assets, with infrastructural assets, with institutional assets, and that’s what creates a natural asset. And some of those assets are already here. But we can’t think about restoring recovery and creating new natural assets and new natural assets which are part of that place. Building or place, rejuvenation, regeneration, whatever we whatever we want to call it.

You know, one of these nice things about the rewilding logic, it sort of releases you from baselines. You take inspiration from past nations to shape future natures.

You’re not trying to recreate something so that they create space for different groups to come together and to think about what forms of natural asset they may want and where those natural assets may be. I’ll give the example in the Netherlands that they needed new natural assets along their rivers to adapt to climate change or whatever. It might be in other areas that people are looking for new natural assets to have somewhere to go. Dog walking, which is quite popular in the UK or have somewhere to have a wild experience, somewhere which produces food in a more a healthier and more ethical way.

A dream project
I think the dream client is somebody who had or could create some space where you could do something pioneering contained areas where you’re doing something new, where you’re experimenting, just trying out things new. And people can come and talk about them. They can bring in people who are sort of more progressive, change agent can get involved in them.

They can be used as exemplars for adoption in wider society. I’m talking about innovation hubs, the nature.

A dialogue way, a code design way of changing and bringing about new environmental or new natural futures.

Pioneer demonstration, experimental projects approach. I think it’s a good way of yeah, co design. I think that’s the word co-production of Environmental Futures. With outlined a set of rewilding principles, so sort of guiding principles which aren’t prescriptive but very sort of characterise what rewilding is, so the fundamental of restoring ecological dynamics and processes, taking inspirations from past natures to shoot showed the futures working with restored forces of nature.

A strong sense of place

One of the things we do know from, you know, from theory Anderson’s imagined communities is that nature that nature is very good at place branding and given the sense of nature and this sense of territory and sense of community and belonging.

One of the interesting things is that if their novel, the new natures, which we’re creating, which they are, if we’re reassembling our church for and biotic diamonds. So if they’re not protected by nature conservation legislation because they don’t fit with that. So, you know, the more they become these free spaces and actually you can be much more relaxed about what people do in them. And again, this is happening in the Netherlands, where, if you like the most famous site, gather support. People are allowed just to do whatever they want in it. And of course, the interesting thing is because it’s dynamic and wild and this big stuff walking around. Most people tend to keep to the path. You become human again, you know, so like a bit scared. Nobody is telling you what to do. And if you want to go off. I mean, I did this once. If you want to go in and go off off the footpath and go in and get dirty, look for beavers and have a bit of an adventure, you can do it. But there’s very few people who do that.

We’re in an increasingly regulated society. Whatever the merits of it, there’s much more health and safety, we’re told, to look after ourselves as.

All of this, the opportunity just to get out into natural areas in your town where you can just do what you want. Social norms, rules and regulations. I mean, that that sounds to me to be valuable. It is an interesting thing about nature is that once you start helping it recover, it says thanks so fast.

Nature does have a force.

From anxiety to solutions.

In the 1990s, I worked in Indonesia and I set up the BirdLife International Program there, and for the first part I was working out in eastern Indonesia on parrot conservation, so forth. But then actually after I left that job, I started working as a consultants, mostly with the World Bank and a couple of NGO on on the Sumatran frontier.

And it was a pretty hard time in some mice that, well, two or three things were going on. Really? What one is, you know, you go to a forest area and you go six and play later. And the landscape was totally, totally trashed.

And a in almost turn down these roads, the roads and as swampy areas with just the skeletons of trees stood out.

There a bit harrowing, actually, I realise I mean, at the time I was sort of in this professional, I, you know, doing this sort of way, but it was getting to me partly maybe also got to me because I had such magical times in my backpacker days and tropical rainforests just feeling the aesthetic and the sheer beauty of it and the wonder of it.

You know, just feeling that’s been lost and been lost for it’s the frontier.

But then the other thing which really got me was to other things, really. One was the chaos international NGOs working at ministerial level, World Bank.

And this realisation that we had no control over the chaos of the frontier, just out of control. Big NGO sort of dropping off the real active engagement with the ground.

Well, I listened a bit to Radiohead, but I actually listened to okay, computer and sorted out. You should listen to this. And it just became the soundtrack of my life. And anybody who knows the okay computer algorithm will just know sort of wailing crescendos and then these really rock-hard guitar riffs. And it just became the soundtrack of my life. I think it’s going to be honest. I realise that that period I was I moved into a place where teaching the students then started talking back to us, not just me as selectors and say, look, we don’t want to hear all of this.

You know, all the evidence about the decline of nature and biodiversity loss and blah, blah. You know, we know things were in a bad way. We don’t want to be a future where we’re just defending the inevitable. And, you know, these images are smashing M.E. mind. You know, we want theory, ideas and learning so we can shape the future. And then as part of that, I started looking outwards and I found the work going on in the Netherlands and I started taking field trips out there and then came into this. It doesn’t all have to be like the Sumatran frontier.

Even though we may trash things, there is still opportunities for nature to recover and to work on nature recovery.

END

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SOUND BRIDGE

CREDITS

Tanya: Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON NARRATIVES. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life production. The music and sound have been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find Diego on diegolosa.blogspot.com.

Many thanks to our guests. You can find Tom Crompton on commoncausefoundation.org.
Paul Allen is at the Centre for Alternative Technology, on cat.org.uk.

Your can contact Dr. Yuan Pan’s through the Geography department at Cambridge university in the U.K. Her research into Natural Capital was with Professor Bhaskar Vira at The Cambridge conservation initiative. Please see cambridgeconservation.org. or contact the Natural Capital hub for more information into Natural Capital as well as organisation and company toolkits

Paul Jepson is currently Nature Recovery Lead at the consultancy Ecosulis. Their website is Ecosulis.co.uk.

You can contact Ajay Rastogi via foundnature.org where you can read about the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can also follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We are also fundraising for a new series of podcasts on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

Reetu Sogani: ON KNOWLEDGE

Reetu Sogani appears on the Nordic by Nature episode ON KNOWLEDGE, together with Ajay Rastogi and Nadia Bergmani.

Listen here.

Reetu Sogani is a women’s rights activist, working on protection, strengthening and enhancing of Cultural and Biological diversity, its integration to address Food and Nutrition Security and building Climate Resilience, with gender and social inclusion perspective, in the remote areas of Himalayas as well as other parts of India. She has dedicated over 20 years of her life, working very closely with women and marginalised groups, using participatory and rights -based perspective on community-centric protection and strengthening of cultural and biological diversity, sustainable livelihoods and transformed gender-based outcomes on ownership and management of natural resources.

In 2013, Reetu addressed the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York as one of the 100 women global leaders from across the world — because of her work with grass roots communities, building awareness levels and capacities for a stronger foundation of local knowledge systems and practices, across the Middle Himalayan ranges and beyond, whilst supporting local organisations, net-working and lobbying for policy changes on the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Livelihoods, integrating People’s knowledge.

She also works as an advisor expert with various International and National organisations such as IDS (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex),Overseas Development Institute (ODI), CDKN, PAC (Practical Action Consulting) ,International Development Research Centre (IDRC), DFID(Department for International Development, IIED, ACTION AID, Government of India and state governments on these issues.

She has been nominated as a Resource Person with UGC (University Grants Commission- It is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government responsible for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education in India)- Human Resource Development Centre, and as a member of the Advisory committee of Women’s studies centre.

In a recent interview with the IIED or International Institute for Environment and Development, Reetu Sogani describes the special bond between women in India and the country’s natural resources – a connection that positions them as key preservers and managers of biodiversity. Despite this, women’s voices often go unheard in policies intended to support biodiversity conservation.

Reetu Sogani

Reetu is also the Honorary Program Director of Chintan International Trust—as well as a development practitioner, researcher and advisor on gender, traditional knowledge, food and nutrition security and climate change in the Middle Himalayan ranges of India.

She has been working in this remote region for the past 15 years, focusing on the issue of people’s rights to their own resources, knowledge systems and protection of cultural and biological diversity. Using a gender-, participatory- and rights-based approach, Sogani works to mainstream knowledge and rights into policies and programs of governance, particularly as they relate to climate change and community food and nutrition security, in close partnership with women and Indigenous communities at the grassroots level

Above: A 20 minute film (forest and seeds) has been made by organisation Fondazione Feltrinelli (2015) on the achievements of women leaders in the regions I have been  working with since 2000 on Gender, Natural resource management and food security. It is being shown on various international forums including EXPO ITALY 2015.

Above: The above film from 2015 was made by CDKN, on “Women and Climate Change” It spotlights some of the women groups with whom Reetu has worked with since 2001 on the issue of forestry and sustainable agriculture, and food security. This work has received national recognition and acknowledgement.

Reetu’s work with women’s groups continues to gain local and international press coverage:

The Hindi Business Online  wrote about women leaders helping women farmers grow local crops using sustainable agri practices.

Transcript of Podcast Interview.

REETU SOGANI

REETU INTRO.

My name is Rita Sogani, and I have been living in the in the hills in the State of Uttarakhand in India, for the last 20 years, and have been working very closely with the grassroots community, especially women and that marginalised community on the issue of traditional knowledge systems and practices.

The work primarily is about how to protect and conserve the traditional knowledge systems and practices which exist in the area of agriculture, forest, water, natural resources. How to strengthen the knowledge system, and how to promote the knowledge system as one of the important base of livelihood of people here.

Reetu Sogani with women in the Himalayan foothills.


ON TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE

When we talk of traditional knowledge, then what we mean is the knowledge that people have been accumulating, have been experiencing, have been observing, for centuries together, actually.

It’s an oral tradition, you know, which has been handed down the generation, from the one generation to another orally. It’s not documented. It’s not coded.

For example, how to grow or agriculture, in very hilly area which is around 1500 meters or 1500 meters to 1700 meters. The kind of soil that we have here how to use that soil in growing different kind of crops, how to manage the forest sustainably, but at the same time also use it in such a way that we have it for the generations later on.

That knowledge that people have, is something that they have a have heard their parents or grandparents speak about.

In other words, it’s just common sense.

REETU ON GENDER ROLES
When I started working the hills in 1998, I had absolutely no idea of what the situation is as far as the local knowledge in the hills is concerned.

I had no idea how it is connected with women and men.

It’s the women actually in the hills who have been very closely connected with the natural resources, be it forest, be it agricultural, be livestock management, be it even health related practices, governed by food items and herbs.

The roles and responsibilities of women are such that they stay in the house, and they carry out all the activities close to the house, you know, which are connected with natural resources. So, agriculture in the hills is not just connected with land, or is not just connected, you know, with growing crops. It’s very closely connected with forest, very closely connected with of course water, very closely connected with livestock.

So, she is the one who is very closely connected with all these sectors, and she is the one who is interacting with them on day to day basis.

She knows what grows where, what leaf should be used if the goat actually has indigestion. Or how the compost is prepared, and how those leaves can be used for the preparation of compost.

So, she is the one who has been interacting with all these ideas, and so she has the knowledge, and she has the skill; first-hand knowledge and first-hand knowledge systems and practices in these sectors.

ROLE OF MEN

Men definitely they are also contributing in agriculture but only in couple of activities. But of course this is a general picture but men mostly prefer to work outside in the villages, or outside, they migrate to the towns or sometimes they migrate to the main towns like Delhi, Bombay and other places, to bring in money.

In fact, the hill economy is also called the money order economy, where the money actually comes in through this money order or through the check, and many people in the hills have also joined the army.

So, it’s the women who has been associated with agriculture and related areas.

One of the research institutions came out with this figure of 98.5 percent, 98.5 percent of the work relating to agriculture is being carried out by women.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

 

REETU ON WOMENS VIEW OF HEALTH

I ask this question from one of the women as to ‘how do you describe health? The word health’

She gave me such a beautiful and different answer.

She said: The animal that you see is still important for health. The kind of crop that we are growing and the methods we are using. That is also connected to the water that we are using. That is also connected with health, what I’m eating and how I’m eating is also connected with my emotional health.

She said, it’s so difficult to describe because all the things around me, are contributing to health, and the air that I’m breathing in, you know, that is also part of health. The forest is responsible. The trees are responsible.

So, she described health in such an integrated and holistic way. That was my first lesson actually.

I mean, if you asked this question from any doctor or any person in the urban area, he or she would say health is the absence of illness. ‘I don’t have any illness.’ How compartmentalised our approach has become, you know in comparison to how people think.

REETU ON CHANGE

And when it comes to women we have to work at various levels. It’s not just at the grassroots level but we have to work at various policymaking levels. Even the grassroots level is very important there, women are not able to make their voices heard even in the local self-governance bodies.

Because of the kind of roles and responsibilities they have they don’t have time, they’re not supposed to be seen in those decision-making forums and processes, because they believe that they’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be doing their household chores.

So that kind of mindset actually has to change, and gender sensitisation has to come about at all levels. Also, at the household level. It’s not something that is very easy, but it’s happening now.

Last year we had a meeting at the state level, in which we had invited the government officials, of not just our state but of the nearby states also, and there were several organisations, Forest department was also there, Agriculture Department was also there- I was so happy to see Parvati who is a wonderful farmer, extremely knowledgeable, spokesperson of our forest Committee, standing there in front of everybody and telling people ‘we want traditional crops we will grow really traditional crops, we will not use any of the chemical fertilisers that you  people from promoting because of these, these and these reasons.

REETU ON WOMEN FARMERS  LAND RIGHTS

One of the other issues which I have not mentioned actually right now, but which is very closely connected to the women farmers; they are doing the majority of the work related to farming, they are actually not known as farmers. They’re not recognised legally, administratively and even socially as farmers, simply because they don’t have land in their name.

It’s really sad. It’s very deeply sad and very ironical I would say.

If you take into consideration Nepal, India, and Thailand, not even 17 percent of the total landholdings actually belong to women. And these are the areas where women contribute maximum to the agricultural economy.

There is still such a tough battle going, on because the land does not get inherited by women. But it has very serious implications on her work, on her capabilities, or no capacity building, on his skills.

Because she is not recognised as farmers, it’s only men who are being invited to the workshops by the government, by any other organisation. Women don’t have access to credit. They don’t have access to the government.

The first thing they ask for is to have the land title in your name, and with increasing migration, and reduced access to resources, the condition of the women has actually worsened over the years, I would say.

We have a big network. This is called Mahela dichotomous that is ‘women farmers rights’. And we are doing everything possible to influence the government, to change the land inheritance rules to include women, which will take many, many years because land is a very important source of power.

But at the same time at least I recognise them as cultivators. At least recognise them as cultivators — at least give them the right to be able to access the bank, and access the credit, whenever they want to.… to access the government, the schemes, the government schemes should not be asking only for the land titles but they should be asking the name of the cultivator. I think it’s very much possible.

This is making the life of the woman very difficult and it has made the situation worse actually over the years because with the decision making vested in absent men, it becomes so difficult to make good important decisions at the right time.

Work relating to agriculture continues to be done by women, but without any decision making it becomes difficult for her, you know, to carry it on for her. Pretty frustrating, very frustrating.

EXAMPLE OF ADMINISTRATION FAILURE

One of the women from our area she had gone to the bank and she was just filling up one form. I think she was opening an account and there was this column that said what is your profession?

She wrote farmer, and the bank officials refused to accept it. He said “You are not a farmer, you are a housewife.”

She had the understanding, she had the business, and also some confidence when she was with other women also there. She said: “I’m a farmer, you have to put down my name because I’m the farmer, I’m the one who is tilling the land, I’m the one who is cutting, I’m the one who is weeding, I’m the one who is harvesting, how can you not call me a farmer. I will not delete the word farmer.

I will continue to use the word farmer. He had to accept it. He did accept it! She was only opening a bank account.

The gender sensitisation hasn’t taken place at that level. So that’s why I’m saying administratively she is not recognised as farmers.

She is still considered to be somebody who is carrying out only the household chores. Her unpaid work; be productive, or be reproductive, or be it caring responsibility, is not being recognised, it is not visible is not being acknowledged.

Here, widows get the right to land title, once their husbands pass away, you know. Parvati also mentioned this in that meeting, in the keynote speaker speech. She said “As long as a husband alive, you know, we have no right over land. Only when he dies, when he passes away, only then we are allowed to have the right over land.”

It hit them really hard. Even the rule which is in favour of them in an actual reality they’re not recognised not just legally but also administratively. It’s the structural change you need to bring about. It’s just that it is the system which responsible for this state of affairs. It is connected to globalisation.

REETU ON FILM BY CDKN

The biggest NGO working globally. On climate change. [00:11:23] Climate Development Knowledge Network, made a film on these women who are part of our group, and the title of the film I think is ‘Missing Women in Decision Making’ and these very women video recorded themselves, as to what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how it is connected with climate change, how it is actually helping them mitigate, how it is helping them adapt themselves.

Women with me have gone to Malaysia and in Malaysia they have spoken about these very things, they have shared their experiences their opinion their needs, their priorities, everything.

We have settled myopic way of looking at things, interconnectedness with nature.

This is what interconnectedness is.

I mean it’s not about just interdependence it’s also about cooperation. People are interdependent. But more than interdependence there is this cooperation, amongst these then villages of the micro watershed around these sectors.

View of Mountains from Majkhali Village, The Vrikshalaya Centre.

Traditional knowledge is not just about technique. It’s not just about practices. It’s about a very integrated interconnected interdependent system you know, which runs through people’s cooperation, which again actually is on the decline.

The social cohesion, the value for the simplicity, you know, the value of the equilibrium all these values, they were very, very integral part of our traditional system, or way of life. And all of these values they make people more resilient. Social cohesion was such an important aspect of people’s lives fiscally those were more modern life like for example.

Diversifying Crops

We have a practice in the hills called Palta, P A L T A (spells it out) — which means that people contribute in each’s labour.

People from not just my household, would contribute, but people from the other households in my village, would contribute, as well as from other villages also.

And the same would happen, I would go and contribute, my whole day, the entire day you know. In carrying out that activity. And this would help mostly those people single women. Women whose husbands or who’s the men folks have migrated, but they’re not… they’re not…there. And the elderly couple households.

So social resilience and social cohesion and all these values actually increase people’s resilience. But unfortunately, that kind of agriculture that we are following now makes people very individualistic.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

I think one of the important things that we have to do is do to have our resources to have belief in our resources, and to strengthen the existing biological diversity, and the cultural diversity, whatever little remains of it.

It’s not that it’s impossible because I worked in certain areas in the hills for the last ten years twelve years and people have changed. I mean they have brought about changes in their food diet, they have brought about changes in their agricultural system. And we are not going to those areas anymore.

The experience that they have already you know, and the awareness that they have is enough actually to last for a very long time. And also, it could get transferred to their children. They’re also growing cash crop, but at the same time they’re also getting finger millet.

They are buying things from the market but at the same time they have their agriculture to fall back on.

ON BIODIVERSE FARMING

Biodiversity based ecological farming, mixed cropping system, done organically– They can also produce much more, not just equivalent to chemical intensive farming. This is one great disbelief that people have, the government have, is that chemical intensive farming can feed the mouths of the increasing population, and organic farming can’t.

This is all wrong actually, and so many studies are there to prove it otherwise. I would not call it organic farming, but biodiversity based, ecological farming. In balance with the nature.

Because organic farming can also promote mono cropping which is happening actually.

Organic farming is just one component of biodiversity based ecological farming. When it comes to chemical intensive farming of course, the adverse impacts are quite well known, and even the government of Uttarakhand and other state governments are not promoting chemical intensive farming anymore, but they are promoting organic farming.

We are talking about biodiversity, also, you know in the farming and the ecological farming

keeping in balance you know with the ecology the surrounding ecology, which is most important.

ON ORGANIC FARMING

Organic farming can also promote mono cropping. Organic farming only talks about cropping system which is minus chemicals, minus synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

That is one important component of the farming system that we are talking about, but we are also talking about mixed cropping system, which would take care of the health of not just the soil but also of course take care of the health of the livestock and also take care of the health of the human beings, because it will ensure availability and access to food and nutrition at all things of the year.

ON 9 CROPS

We have a practice of growing nine different kinds of crops in one single season during the rainy season. And these different crops are about Grains, Spices, Oil seeds, different pulses, all these nine different kinds of crops would grow in one single field, in one single season and it will get harvested of course at different times of the year but it will ensure availability of some food you know in the household at any time of the year.

Now the studies have also proved that both of us based ecological farming on mixed cropping system done organically will take care of not just the production but also of the health aspect.

We have the studies and we have the data that can prove, you know, that their production can be higher than the production of mono cropping. Done just next to that field.

ON NUTRITION

The amount of nutrition which is coming out of that one acre of land and it’ll be much more in comparison to the mono cropping which is growing this next that the one acre of land in one year it is able to absorb two thousand pounds of carbon in a year. Where are doing mixed cropping organically. In comparison to chemical intensive farming which actually releases 300 pounds of carbon per acre, per year.

Considering the global warming which is taking place, it is very, very important to also come up with ways for mitigation; mitigating strategies are much more important and unfortunately nobody talks about it because it is connected with again you know big corporations.

It is connected again with fertiliser companies and nobody is invested in mitigation right now.

Nobody is talking about agriculture which is a very big contributor of carbon emission but can be a very important strategy to sequestrate the carbon, prevent it from emitting, and also absorb the carbon which is in the atmosphere.

Agriculture done this the mixed cropping done organically is considered to be the only way through which we can do carbon sequestration at a very fast rate.

This is in total contrast to the policies of the government which is talking about monoculture, growing only pine trees in the forest area, and also promoting mono cropping.

I think we have to have a very multi-pronged approach you know, the statistics are also important in certain areas, and case studies are equally important.

Transplanting rice in Majkhali

CONVINCING MEN

The village women I had been working with constantly since 2001. They already had been a witness. They had some difficulty to convince the menfolk actually at the household level.

But gradually they interacted with a mentor also and they also started coming to our meetings. We made them interact with few people who have never switched over to chemical intensive farming and make them use their experiences.

We did workshops for them. He showed them video films we showed them many educational documentaries. We took them out on educational trips to some people renowned people who have been working on saving seeds for many, many years. Made them interact with other groups also working on these issues.

We took a walk actually for five days through different parts of Uttarakhand, and they interacted the different communities they exchanged you know their experiences, they heard about their experiences, and gradually they finally got the confidence to do what all of us had been talking about.

They shifted from chemical intensive farming, to gradually organic farming and the mono cropping to mixed cropping. Surrounding villages have also actually turned, after having seen them you know after having heard their experiences, they have also gradually turned organic, and they have also gone back you know to those mixed cropping systems, through their interaction so they have become kind of leaders actually in all the.

The government of Uttarakhand declared itself organic many, many, many, many years ago but it has not created any market where farmers can actually sell it organic produce. That’s a big challenge too. It’s not that they have no idea. It’s not that they have no awareness. They know that that middle person actually the takeaway a major chunk of profit, you know, and the farmers are not able to reach the market.

That struggle is still going on, but at the same time in parallel, there are women’s federations and they are selling them now in the market to different outlets. And do value addition packaging, labelling, everything and then sell in different outlets.

This could be the government outlet as well as some other private outlets.

That is happening and that is adding to their income.

They’re also catering to the urban taste you know by having single malt cake or finger millet biscuits. Over the last two three years their children have started offering this local produce.

The things that they were used to eating from outside.

I think in India we have the civil society is quite strong, and the women’s groups are also very strong.

SELF AUTONOMY

To self-reliance self-confidence and self-esteem; these are all connected.

So we can’t say that everything in the name of knowledge, which we have inherited, which has come down the generations. is good and very effective. Many of the things that are effective but some of the things are not very effective. Maybe because the situation has changed now, so a good amalgamation, a very balanced amalgamation of local knowledge with the new knowledge also needs to be done from time to time, now, to address people’s emerging needs and requirements.

The most important thing in the amalgamation is: Who is controlling the knowledge? The point of control. It has been a gradual dependence of people on the market. Self-reliance Self Sustenance. Has. Been replaced with total dependence. And that actually has an impact on the self-confidence and self-esteem of people. When we talk of local knowledge. And the replacement of local knowledge. People lose out on this self-confidence the self-esteem and self-reliance.

You should be looking like us it could be an institution it could be a country it could be a civilization, could be a region it could be a section of community it could be market, and a particular section in the market, and it could be an advertising agency who wants you to look like people they are advertising.

We lose identity we lose address we lose the language we lose our food we lose our systems we lose our knowledge we lose their practices and we lose ourselves completely. Lose autonomy, lose autonomy, lose our freedom.

END

——————————————

Reetu Sogani would like to thank the women of Chak Dalar and Chama Chopra in the Bheerapani area, in Nainital district. The women in Talla Gehna in Nainital district. And the women in Tola area in Almora district.

 

 

 

Episode 8: ON KNOWLEDGE Transcript

Podcast episode 8: ON KNOWLEDGE

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Introduction:

TANYA:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

This episode, ON KNOWLEDGE, features two guests who have dedicated their life’s work to enabling marginalised communities protect their own resilience, whilst net-working and lobbying for policy changes around the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods, and integrating People’s knowledge into bioregional development.

But first you will hear a few words from my colleague Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. Ajay works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttrakahand, India. He set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as foreign visitors and homestay guests interested in more meaningful forms of sustainability.

We then hear from Nadia Bergamini who works at Bioversity International. Nadia also lives on and runs an organic, biodynamic farm together with her husband, in the countryside, outside of Rome.

At Bioversity International, Nadia collaborates with the Satoyama Initiative, helping communities all over the world develop strategies to strengthen their social and ecological resilience, and maintain the diversity of the landscapes’ agro-ecosystems, species and varieties.

You will then hear from Reetu Sogani, women’s rights activist who is working on strengthening and evolving Cultural and biological diversity, and its integration to address Food and Nutrition Security and build Climate Resilience, in the remote areas of Himalayas and other parts of India. Reetu has addressed the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York as one of the 100 women global leaders from across the world.

I hope you have time to sit back, relax and listen.

AJAY RASTOGI

I’m Ajay and calling in from Uttrakhand State. I have been a colleague of Reetu for last 7 years.

We have worked with the local small farmers here and we are aware of the beautiful work of Nadia at the Biodiversity International.

There is so much in the natural world that we are forgetting on a daily basis. The interconnectedness of the species and the knowledge systems within the landscape is something that’s getting diminished every minute, if we can say.

Close to 80 percent of all crop or food diversity is on the brink of extinction. Having said that, it’s a hope that is provided by the work of Nadia and of people like Rita who look at the policy level as well as at the grassroots level. The food cultures, the fibres for our making, our house for making our everyday life.

Things are also getting lost.

Ajay Rastogi at the Vrikshalaya Centre

The big question is, are we only thinking of biodiversity as food or are we thinking of it as a celebration of life? Each seed is life.

Somehow the work that we used to do with our own hands is considered a bit undignified at the moment. And that’s why the connection of the consumers with where the things are produced is getting longer and longer. And there is a certain level of disconnect.

That disconnect is not just about the value of the food. The nutrition of the food. But it’s also a disconnect about how those small farmers survive. What do they need? What is the kind of systems that we need to put in place in those landscapes so that the diversity could continue to flourish?

With the climate change, there is a lot under challenge.

Although the world is waking up at large to address the issue of climate change. But it is the resilience of the knowledge systems that we have for thousands of years. Developed in particular landscapes, those species, those varieties of crops which have survived these thousands of years of evolution in the particular landscapes, they are the ones which will really be the resilient species. And Reetu’s work, and also Nadia’s work speaks of that volumes about it in their experimentation, as well as in how the knowledge is being generated.

The beauty in their work is about experience learning. It’s something which has evolved and is done on the soil by hands together with the farming community.

Ajay Rastogi welcomes to the Vrikshalaya Himalayan centre, the home of the trees!

Often the argument is made that the lands are so fragmented and so small that the farming which can be supported in those lands will not be either viable for the livelihoods of the small farmers. And at the same time will not meet the scale that the growing human population needs to meet its food demands.

However, it seems very unlikely because what we have seen that when we grow diversity in smallholders’ farmers’ fields, there is much more energy production that takes place and much more diversity of food sources that we get out of it even now.

Although we may be claiming that the food culture has converted to industrial supplies and larger value chains of concentration where the food is processed and provided to the urban consumers through supermarkets, even there, if we see where is the production coming from, we find that more than 70 percent of the production is still dominated by small producers, which is being put together and processed.

And then we feel that the scale has been achieved. One of the farmers once mentioned to me and I have never forgotten that sentence. He said whosoever the person, maybe even the president of India, let us see. But he still has to eat three meals a day and that three meals I provide. So that is the level of respect that the small farmer deserves from all of us.

NADIA BERGAMINI

NADIA INTRO

Hello, my name is Nadia Bergamini. And I work as a research specialist for Bioversity International in Rome.

Bioversity International is a Global Research for Development Organisation, ugh, and that is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. And this group is a partnership of 15 different research centres that work for a food secure future, and these 15 centres collaborate with hundreds of partners across the whole globe.

Biodiversity International’s vision is to have agriculture biodiversity that nourishes people and sustains the planet. So, when we talk about agriculture biodiversity here, we intend the diversity of crops including the wild relatives, including trees, animals, but also microbes, and all the species that contribute to the production in agriculture.

Sound: meditation bell

Nadia Bergamini

NADIA BIODIVERSITY INTRO

So, there’s a lot of diversity within an ecosystem. And we look at diversity from a species, but also from a genetic point of view. So, our mission instead is to deliver the scientific evidence, but also management practices, policy options in order to use and safeguard agriculture and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and also nutrition security.

So basically, we work with the partners in many different countries around the world, mostly low-income countries where agriculture and tree biodiversity can actually contribute to improved nutrition, but also livelihoods, resilience and also productivity, and help in adaptation to climate change.

Usually these low-income countries are also the countries where we find most of the agricultural and tree biodiversity.

NADIA BIODIVERSITY COLLABORATION

Since 2018 December 2018 we have been collaborating with another of these centres which is a Centre for Tropical Agriculture which is based in Cali in Colombia. And we have actually signed a memorandum of understanding to create an alliance. So, the two organisations will actually be working together much more strongly because we have very similar agenda and very similar mandates. So, we actually are going to complement the work of one Institute with the other.

So, this is sort of a future for us as well.

NADIA GLOBAL CHALLENGES– STAPLE FOOD

So why is the work that we do important because we know that the global population is growing, and we have predictions that say that by 2000 10 in 2050 we will be 9 million people in the world or even more. And this means that we need to feed all these people, and the food availability needs to actually expand in this especially in developing countries.

We actually facing a lot of global challenges like the challenge to reduce global malnutrition to adapt to climate change but also to increase as we said productivity and reduce risk, and also to address shrinking food diversity which is happening all over the world, and reduce the negative impacts of agricultural production on natural ecosystems.

And we think that production needs to focus on a diverse range of nutritious foods, which come from production systems that are highly biodiverse. We think that it’s better to increase their production in these type of systems rather than increase the volume of the few staple grains that presently cover 50 percent of the world’s energy intake.

And these grains are rice wheat and maize.

We are actually convinced that using on safeguarding agricultural and also tree biodiversity can help meet all these challenges.

And also, we know that farm households unruly corn wheat communities which are the people we work with have long since used agriculture and tree biodiversity to diversify their diets, to manage pests and disease, and also weather-related stress. The problem is that in the past policymakers and researchers have never considered these types of approaches as economically viable. Research has never gone into this direction or very marginally. But recent scientific evidence that has demonstrated that actually agriculture and tree biodiversity used in combination with novel technology, and also approaches, can offer a lot in addressing all these challenges.

It also brings increasing recognition as a tool to achieve a global sustainable development goals. which we’re all working towards.

NADIA SMALL SCALE PRODUCTION & DIVERSE

We work with agricultural biodiversity, so as I said, we promote small scale production that is highly diverse. So not only diverse in number of species that are that are cultivated, but it could be also diverse in the number of varieties of the same species.

For example, we work a lot with the farmers in Africa who cultivate beans. And what we have seen is that cultivating on the same field, different varieties of beans can actually reduce the impact of pests and diseases on the production systems.

So, we actually promoting genetically diverse systems because they actually much more adapted to climate change because they have a lot of more variety and there’s much more than great opportunity for some of the right varieties to perform well in different environmental conditions.

NADIA ON MILLET

We work a lot also with university and research institutes in these countries. We also work in preparing university curricula on agro-biodiversity. For example, we have a big program on the so called the neglected and under-utilised species which Millet is one of these species.

What we have done in the projects working with the with these species is actually to show what are the advantages for the farmers to cultivate these species, because they are actually proven to be more adapted to marginal environments. So, for example in India we have been working with minor millets and some areas of India are really facing a lot of heat and drought problems. And we have seen that some of these minor millets are really adapted to these environments.

They can thrive under low input and stress stressful growing conditions, that usually limit the productivity of staple crops. And they’re also highly nutritious. So they can actually contribute to healthier diets. And they also have a lot of potential for development as novel consumer products because we also engage with local private sectors and try to find ways to make these produce more attractive to young to young people but also to adults creating new recipes and way of presenting millets, for example in cookies or other plates.

And also, it is important to conserve these neglected and under-utilised species because they are also linked with the local culture and traditions. We know that by strengthening the use of these conservation and the use of these species we are also strengthening local identities. And we also contributing to empower marginalised communities.

NADIA ON LOCAL CULTURE  & WOMEN

Yes, we have a program on, on specifically on gender and trying to see the different roles that men and women play within the agricultural sector in especially in these low-income countries. And we have actually seen that although women often are not included in decision making. They actually play a very important role in managing farms. Women are usually engaged in cultivating the so-called home gardens and there where they usually select different varieties of medicinal plants but also condiments and which actually compliment a lot for the health and also for the diets of the whole household.

And women are also very much involved in selecting seeds. So usually when they have to choose the seeds that they would like to plant for the next season women are involved in this activity because they are also the ones who usually have to prepare food and so they they know which type of characteristics the different crops need to have the they know which beans Cook in less time which have a better taste which are better for some dishes or others or even the importance of some of the varieties for specific traditions or rituals or festivals.

So, the role of women is really is very important in maintaining this diversity within the household and also in ensuring more diversity in the nutrition of the or the household itself.

NADIA ON SYRIA
We have been working also on this because the situation in Syria is so dramatic and it’s so terrible and it’s really an extreme example of what can happen to people in a war situation but actually traditional knowledge and local knowledge is being lost all over the world because of globalisation because of a lot of times because of modern technology and so on and so we work towards trying to conserve this.

NADIA ON PROGRAMS/ REGISTRIES / RECIPES

This local knowledge and making sure that is it is transmitted to the younger generation. So, we have programs working with schoolchildren. But we also encourage communities to conserve. For example, biodiversity registries. So they have at the community level and they will keep a registry where they will note down all the diversity that is in their community all the different traits that different crops have and what they use for how they are managed on farm and this information is very important to keep at the community level and to make sure that is it is then transmitted to the younger generations because we also seen a big pro black problem that is that sort of migration to cities so younger generations also eating the agricultural systems to go on and look for jobs in the cities.

But not only agro-biodiversity registries is important to sort of keep track of this knowledge. We also work with the seasonal calendars where communities themselves will list all the different products that they are available during the different season in a year. And together with the name of the crop and the characteristics there is also different information on how it’s used for example.

And we also try to have community members especially women write their own recipe books. So, we have worked a lot in Central Asia with producing booklets that report all the different recipes. We have done this also in Cuba where we have all traditional recipes which are not known at all in the cities. And so this is also a way to keep this this knowledge alive.

NADIA ON GLOBAL NETWORKS

There are different networks that can be that can be used to share information. I was thinking of one that is the platform for agro-biodiversity research, which is actually hosted year in Bioversity International, and it is a network where anyone who is interested in agro-biodiversity can sort of link to and also put any type of information that they would like to share with other people.

And it’s actually a global network. So, this could be a way to share information. Obviously, language can be a barrier. We tend to stick to English, French and Spanish, but not even always we manage to do translations into French and Spanish. So, language can be a barrier. But I think networks of this type can be a good a good solution. Also, if communities have access to internet because it’s not always it’s not always the case.

NADIA ON URBAN ENVIRONMENTS, e.g. CUBA

We did have a small program looking at um from rural to urban looking at also gardens and the creation of a vegetable gardens in urban environments. A lot of times we are trying to link the rural sector with the urban ones so that there is a sort of mechanism that products can flow directly from the agricultural sector to the cities.

We have seen for example that in Cuba there is a problem with the food supply and that is basically linked to the fact that transport is very bad there, and farmers are connected to the to the government. So the government cooperatives are other ones who go round the different farms to collect the produce that they want but not all the products are requested. So, a lot of the fruit that is produced, for example, in the farms, is then wasted because there is no market with the government cooperatives.

So that for example we have worked together with the Urban and Suburban Program which in Cuba is very strong, to try to create local markets that actually can be supplied directly by the farmers, and it’s working quite well because people in the cities are actually very interested in getting fresh produce, and also varieties that they are not used to have in the cities.

NADIA ON HER FARM

In actual fact I have a farm myself. So my husband is is a farmer and we have an organic farm not very far from where where I work. We have seen changes in climate of a very short period of time. I mean we have been we have been cultivating for maybe 15 years and it’s really very difficult to predict what’s going to happen, and to know when you have to plant you your crops because you might have a cold spell, you might have a lot of rain, or it may be very hot and dry so the only way to overcome these problems is actually to have a bigger array of diversity where you can choose from. And so, if you cultivate different types of tomatoes that have that are resistant to two different biotic and abiotic stresses then you might have a better chance of picking some of the tomatoes at the end of the season.

So I mean this is the only way that we can actually go, and I would say that Italy we’re very fond of our food and so we still have quite a lot of connection with the land, and a lot of young people are sort of going back to farming maybe because it’s difficult to find other jobs, a job that that can with which you can actually survive both because you work you can eat your own food, but also because it’s actually there’s quite a lot of requests for fresh organic foods here in Italy. Yes.

Farms in Europe I would say have to differentiate their income so It’s not only farming but usually it’s also a transformation of some of the products, or even restaurants or having school activities. So taking sort of educational plans with schools so schools come to the farm they actually do some experience. They do some work and they and the kids actually see where their food comes from. Yes, this is quite common.

The market has just a certain amount of space and I don’t think everyone can sort of go towards agro-tourism because the market at least here is quite saturated at the moment. Yes.

DIVERSIFICTION = RESILIENCE

This idea of diversification is what we also call resilience. And we have been working quite a lot on this with also with other partners around the world. And one of them was the Satoyama Initiative which is an international partnership made up of a lot of different institutes from all over the world, who have come together basically to work on the so-called social ecological production landscapes or seascapes, because the idea of conserving nature without human beings is actually an idea that doesn’t work anymore.

We have seen that all this all the ecosystems of the world have been altered in somehow by human beings. And a lot of these systems have core evolved with human beings. So, they have been shaped by their activities. But they also have to withstand the test of time. So, a lot of these systems are actually still producing and still sustaining the livelihoods of the people working on these systems. What we have tried to do is actually to understand what has made these systems resilient over such a long period of time.

And we have seen that resilience is actually depends a lot both from a social and ecological point of view on the diversification. So, the same definition of social ecological production landscape is in fact of a mosque a mosaic of different land uses and habitats. So, for example village’s farmlands, grasslands, forests, pastoral lands, and coasts that have been for old and maintained through the interaction between people and nature in a sustainable way.

Satoyama Initiative Framework

And we call them Satoyama, we call them social ecological production landscapes. There are other programs that work with these types of systems on a landscape level. Resilience is actually linked to the capacity of these systems to adapt and to change to the changing conditions. But maintaining their sort of main functions and their main structure.

and so as I was saying we have been working with a lot of these type of landscapes and the communities that live in these in these landscapes and we have seen that to increase resilience they need to have a lot of agriculture to maintain a lot of agricultural biodiversity that

Local culture and knowledge is extremely important that also diversification of farming income is increasingly important so that they don’t depend only on one sector and this can be done through ecotourism it can be done through artisanal work or differentiating the sources of income through different types of activities that are ways that still are sustainable for the environment.

And this is why then in the end we developed a series of indicators, social resilience indicators that were actually developed to do this to measure resilience within these systems. But these indicators are a sort of a participatory approach so they are they are mostly I would say qualitative more than quantitative indicators. And it’s the communities themselves that assess the resilience of their own of their own systems, because resilience to them it might be different from what we see as resilient.

They all have their own world views. They have their own aspirations and might see things in a different way. For example, one of the indicators that comes to my mind is that we look at infrastructure within the landscape and often as a Westerner we might think that they lack a lot of primary facilities that for us would be essential like, for example. electric power. But some of these communities are actually interested in different things on electric power for them was not their primary concern.

So it’s interesting to use this this approach because you actually have the communities himself assess what they think and what they see they see as resilient in their system, and then they are able also to work on their landscape and try to improve the resilience through different type of activities.

So, resilience is the capacity to learn and adapt to the changes. So, a system is resilient not when it stays in its own stages for a long period of time it’s not conserving a museum for example but it’s a dynamic there. We’re talking about dynamic systems that change over time. But the capacity to learn and adapt for changes and the base has to be a rich system in biodiversity wild and natural biodiversity. Governance is important within the systems culture needs to be something that we tried to conserve. And those are the sort of the local ways style of life and so on and on and at the same time introducing also technology, I mean we’re not trying to if technology is useful in these situations it’s a good thing.

Equity, participation are absolutely fundamental. Yes.

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REETU SOGANI

REETU INTRO.

My name is Rita Sogani, and I have been living in the in the hills in the State of Uttarakhand in India, for the last 20 years, and have been working very closely with the grassroots community, especially women and that marginalised community on the issue of traditional knowledge systems and practices.

The work primarily is about how to protect and conserve the traditional knowledge systems and practices which exist in the area of agriculture, forest, water, natural resources. How to strengthen the knowledge system, and how to promote the knowledge system as one of the important base of livelihood of people here.

Reetu Sogani with women in the Himalayan foothills.


ON TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE

When we talk of traditional knowledge, then what we mean is the knowledge that people have been accumulating, have been experiencing, have been observing, for centuries together, actually.

It’s an oral tradition, you know, which has been handed down the generation, from the one generation to another orally. It’s not documented. It’s not coded.

For example, how to grow or agriculture, in very hilly area which is around 1500 meters or 1500 meters to 1700 meters. The kind of soil that we have here how to use that soil in growing different kind of crops, how to manage the forest sustainably, but at the same time also use it in such a way that we have it for the generations later on.

That knowledge that people have, is something that they have a have heard their parents or grandparents speak about.

In other words, it’s just common sense.

REETU ON GENDER ROLES
When I started working the hills in 1998, I had absolutely no idea of what the situation is as far as the local knowledge in the hills is concerned.

I had no idea how it is connected with women and men.

It’s the women actually in the hills who have been very closely connected with the natural resources, be it forest, be it agricultural, be livestock management, be it even health related practices, governed by food items and herbs.

The roles and responsibilities of women are such that they stay in the house, and they carry out all the activities close to the house, you know, which are connected with natural resources. So, agriculture in the hills is not just connected with land, or is not just connected, you know, with growing crops. It’s very closely connected with forest, very closely connected with of course water, very closely connected with livestock.

So, she is the one who is very closely connected with all these sectors, and she is the one who is interacting with them on day to day basis.

She knows what grows where, what leaf should be used if the goat actually has indigestion. Or how the compost is prepared, and how those leaves can be used for the preparation of compost.

So, she is the one who has been interacting with all these ideas, and so she has the knowledge, and she has the skill; first-hand knowledge and first-hand knowledge systems and practices in these sectors.

ROLE OF MEN

Men definitely they are also contributing in agriculture but only in couple of activities. But of course this is a general picture but men mostly prefer to work outside in the villages, or outside, they migrate to the towns or sometimes they migrate to the main towns like Delhi, Bombay and other places, to bring in money.

In fact, the hill economy is also called the money order economy, where the money actually comes in through this money order or through the check, and many people in the hills have also joined the army.

So, it’s the women who has been associated with agriculture and related areas.

One of the research institutions came out with this figure of 98.5 percent, 98.5 percent of the work relating to agriculture is being carried out by women.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

 

REETU ON WOMENS VIEW OF HEALTH

I ask this question from one of the women as to ‘how do you describe health? The word health’

She gave me such a beautiful and different answer.

She said: The animal that you see is still important for health. The kind of crop that we are growing and the methods we are using. That is also connected to the water that we are using. That is also connected with health, what I’m eating and how I’m eating is also connected with my emotional health.

She said, it’s so difficult to describe because all the things around me, are contributing to health, and the air that I’m breathing in, you know, that is also part of health. The forest is responsible. The trees are responsible.

So, she described health in such an integrated and holistic way. That was my first lesson actually.

I mean, if you asked this question from any doctor or any person in the urban area, he or she would say health is the absence of illness. ‘I don’t have any illness.’ How compartmentalised our approach has become, you know in comparison to how people think.

REETU ON CHANGE

And when it comes to women we have to work at various levels. It’s not just at the grassroots level but we have to work at various policymaking levels. Even the grassroots level is very important there, women are not able to make their voices heard even in the local self-governance bodies.

Because of the kind of roles and responsibilities they have they don’t have time, they’re not supposed to be seen in those decision-making forums and processes, because they believe that they’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be doing their household chores.

So that kind of mindset actually has to change, and gender sensitisation has to come about at all levels. Also, at the household level. It’s not something that is very easy, but it’s happening now.

Last year we had a meeting at the state level, in which we had invited the government officials, of not just our state but of the nearby states also, and there were several organisations, Forest department was also there, Agriculture Department was also there- I was so happy to see Parvati who is a wonderful farmer, extremely knowledgeable, spokesperson of our forest Committee, standing there in front of everybody and telling people ‘we want traditional crops we will grow really traditional crops, we will not use any of the chemical fertilisers that you  people from promoting because of these, these and these reasons.

REETU ON WOMEN FARMERS  LAND RIGHTS

One of the other issues which I have not mentioned actually right now, but which is very closely connected to the women farmers; they are doing the majority of the work related to farming, they are actually not known as farmers. They’re not recognised legally, administratively and even socially as farmers, simply because they don’t have land in their name.

It’s really sad. It’s very deeply sad and very ironical I would say.

If you take into consideration Nepal, India, and Thailand, not even 17 percent of the total landholdings actually belong to women. And these are the areas where women contribute maximum to the agricultural economy.

There is still such a tough battle going, on because the land does not get inherited by women. But it has very serious implications on her work, on her capabilities, or no capacity building, on his skills.

Because she is not recognised as farmers, it’s only men who are being invited to the workshops by the government, by any other organisation. Women don’t have access to credit. They don’t have access to the government.

The first thing they ask for is to have the land title in your name, and with increasing migration, and reduced access to resources, the condition of the women has actually worsened over the years, I would say.

We have a big network. This is called Mahela dichotomous that is ‘women farmers rights’. And we are doing everything possible to influence the government, to change the land inheritance rules to include women, which will take many, many years because land is a very important source of power.

But at the same time at least I recognise them as cultivators. At least recognise them as cultivators — at least give them the right to be able to access the bank, and access the credit, whenever they want to.… to access the government, the schemes, the government schemes should not be asking only for the land titles but they should be asking the name of the cultivator. I think it’s very much possible.

This is making the life of the woman very difficult and it has made the situation worse actually over the years because with the decision making vested in absent men, it becomes so difficult to make good important decisions at the right time.

Work relating to agriculture continues to be done by women, but without any decision making it becomes difficult for her, you know, to carry it on for her. Pretty frustrating, very frustrating.

EXAMPLE OF ADMINISTRATION FAILURE

One of the women from our area she had gone to the bank and she was just filling up one form. I think she was opening an account and there was this column that said what is your profession?

She wrote farmer, and the bank officials refused to accept it. He said “You are not a farmer, you are a housewife.”

She had the understanding, she had the business, and also some confidence when she was with other women also there. She said: “I’m a farmer, you have to put down my name because I’m the farmer, I’m the one who is tilling the land, I’m the one who is cutting, I’m the one who is weeding, I’m the one who is harvesting, how can you not call me a farmer. I will not delete the word farmer.

I will continue to use the word farmer. He had to accept it. He did accept it! She was only opening a bank account.

The gender sensitisation hasn’t taken place at that level. So that’s why I’m saying administratively she is not recognised as farmers.

She is still considered to be somebody who is carrying out only the household chores. Her unpaid work; be productive, or be reproductive, or be it caring responsibility, is not being recognised, it is not visible is not being acknowledged.

Here, widows get the right to land title, once their husbands pass away, you know. Parvati also mentioned this in that meeting, in the keynote speaker speech. She said “As long as a husband alive, you know, we have no right over land. Only when he dies, when he passes away, only then we are allowed to have the right over land.”

It hit them really hard. Even the rule which is in favour of them in an actual reality they’re not recognised not just legally but also administratively. It’s the structural change you need to bring about. It’s just that it is the system which responsible for this state of affairs. It is connected to globalisation.

REETU ON FILM BY CDKN

The biggest NGO working globally. On climate change. [00:11:23] Climate Development Knowledge Network, made a film on these women who are part of our group, and the title of the film I think is ‘Missing Women in Decision Making’ and these very women video recorded themselves, as to what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how it is connected with climate change, how it is actually helping them mitigate, how it is helping them adapt themselves.

Women with me have gone to Malaysia and in Malaysia they have spoken about these very things, they have shared their experiences their opinion their needs, their priorities, everything.

We have settled myopic way of looking at things, interconnectedness with nature.

This is what interconnectedness is.

I mean it’s not about just interdependence it’s also about cooperation. People are interdependent. But more than interdependence there is this cooperation, amongst these then villages of the micro watershed around these sectors.

View of Mountains from Majkhali Village, The Vrikshalaya Centre.

Traditional knowledge is not just about technique. It’s not just about practices. It’s about a very integrated interconnected interdependent system you know, which runs through people’s cooperation, which again actually is on the decline.

The social cohesion, the value for the simplicity, you know, the value of the equilibrium all these values, they were very, very integral part of our traditional system, or way of life. And all of these values they make people more resilient. Social cohesion was such an important aspect of people’s lives fiscally those were more modern life like for example.

Diversifying Crops

We have a practice in the hills called Palta, P A L T A (spells it out) — which means that people contribute in each’s labour.

People from not just my household, would contribute, but people from the other households in my village, would contribute, as well as from other villages also.

And the same would happen, I would go and contribute, my whole day, the entire day you know. In carrying out that activity. And this would help mostly those people single women. Women whose husbands or who’s the men folks have migrated, but they’re not… they’re not…there. And the elderly couple households.

So social resilience and social cohesion and all these values actually increase people’s resilience. But unfortunately, that kind of agriculture that we are following now makes people very individualistic.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

I think one of the important things that we have to do is do to have our resources to have belief in our resources, and to strengthen the existing biological diversity, and the cultural diversity, whatever little remains of it.

It’s not that it’s impossible because I worked in certain areas in the hills for the last ten years twelve years and people have changed. I mean they have brought about changes in their food diet, they have brought about changes in their agricultural system. And we are not going to those areas anymore.

The experience that they have already you know, and the awareness that they have is enough actually to last for a very long time. And also, it could get transferred to their children. They’re also growing cash crop, but at the same time they’re also getting finger millet.

They are buying things from the market but at the same time they have their agriculture to fall back on.

ON BIODIVERSE FARMING

Biodiversity based ecological farming, mixed cropping system, done organically– They can also produce much more, not just equivalent to chemical intensive farming. This is one great disbelief that people have, the government have, is that chemical intensive farming can feed the mouths of the increasing population, and organic farming can’t.

This is all wrong actually, and so many studies are there to prove it otherwise. I would not call it organic farming, but biodiversity based, ecological farming. In balance with the nature.

Because organic farming can also promote mono cropping which is happening actually.

Organic farming is just one component of biodiversity based ecological farming. When it comes to chemical intensive farming of course, the adverse impacts are quite well known, and even the government of Uttarakhand and other state governments are not promoting chemical intensive farming anymore, but they are promoting organic farming.

We are talking about biodiversity, also, you know in the farming and the ecological farming

keeping in balance you know with the ecology the surrounding ecology, which is most important.

ON ORGANIC FARMING

Organic farming can also promote mono cropping. Organic farming only talks about cropping system which is minus chemicals, minus synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

That is one important component of the farming system that we are talking about, but we are also talking about mixed cropping system, which would take care of the health of not just the soil but also of course take care of the health of the livestock and also take care of the health of the human beings, because it will ensure availability and access to food and nutrition at all things of the year.

ON 9 CROPS

We have a practice of growing nine different kinds of crops in one single season during the rainy season. And these different crops are about Grains, Spices, Oil seeds, different pulses, all these nine different kinds of crops would grow in one single field, in one single season and it will get harvested of course at different times of the year but it will ensure availability of some food you know in the household at any time of the year.

Now the studies have also proved that both of us based ecological farming on mixed cropping system done organically will take care of not just the production but also of the health aspect.

We have the studies and we have the data that can prove, you know, that their production can be higher than the production of mono cropping. Done just next to that field.

ON NUTRITION

The amount of nutrition which is coming out of that one acre of land and it’ll be much more in comparison to the mono cropping which is growing this next that the one acre of land in one year it is able to absorb two thousand pounds of carbon in a year. Where are doing mixed cropping organically. In comparison to chemical intensive farming which actually releases 300 pounds of carbon per acre, per year.

Considering the global warming which is taking place, it is very, very important to also come up with ways for mitigation; mitigating strategies are much more important and unfortunately nobody talks about it because it is connected with again you know big corporations.

It is connected again with fertiliser companies and nobody is invested in mitigation right now.

Nobody is talking about agriculture which is a very big contributor of carbon emission but can be a very important strategy to sequestrate the carbon, prevent it from emitting, and also absorb the carbon which is in the atmosphere.

Agriculture done this the mixed cropping done organically is considered to be the only way through which we can do carbon sequestration at a very fast rate.

This is in total contrast to the policies of the government which is talking about monoculture, growing only pine trees in the forest area, and also promoting mono cropping.

I think we have to have a very multi-pronged approach you know, the statistics are also important in certain areas, and case studies are equally important.

Transplanting rice in Majkhali

CONVINCING MEN

The village women I had been working with constantly since 2001. They already had been a witness. They had some difficulty to convince the menfolk actually at the household level.

But gradually they interacted with a mentor also and they also started coming to our meetings. We made them interact with few people who have never switched over to chemical intensive farming and make them use their experiences.

We did workshops for them. He showed them video films we showed them many educational documentaries. We took them out on educational trips to some people renowned people who have been working on saving seeds for many, many years. Made them interact with other groups also working on these issues.

We took a walk actually for five days through different parts of Uttarakhand, and they interacted the different communities they exchanged you know their experiences, they heard about their experiences, and gradually they finally got the confidence to do what all of us had been talking about.

They shifted from chemical intensive farming, to gradually organic farming and the mono cropping to mixed cropping. Surrounding villages have also actually turned, after having seen them you know after having heard their experiences, they have also gradually turned organic, and they have also gone back you know to those mixed cropping systems, through their interaction so they have become kind of leaders actually in all the.

The government of Uttarakhand declared itself organic many, many, many, many years ago but it has not created any market where farmers can actually sell it organic produce. That’s a big challenge too. It’s not that they have no idea. It’s not that they have no awareness. They know that that middle person actually the takeaway a major chunk of profit, you know, and the farmers are not able to reach the market.

That struggle is still going on, but at the same time in parallel, there are women’s federations and they are selling them now in the market to different outlets. And do value addition packaging, labelling, everything and then sell in different outlets.

This could be the government outlet as well as some other private outlets.

That is happening and that is adding to their income.

They’re also catering to the urban taste you know by having single malt cake or finger millet biscuits. Over the last two three years their children have started offering this local produce.

The things that they were used to eating from outside.

I think in India we have the civil society is quite strong, and the women’s groups are also very strong.

SELF AUTONOMY

To self-reliance self-confidence and self-esteem; these are all connected.

So we can’t say that everything in the name of knowledge, which we have inherited, which has come down the generations. is good and very effective. Many of the things that are effective but some of the things are not very effective. Maybe because the situation has changed now, so a good amalgamation, a very balanced amalgamation of local knowledge with the new knowledge also needs to be done from time to time, now, to address people’s emerging needs and requirements.

The most important thing in the amalgamation is: Who is controlling the knowledge? The point of control. It has been a gradual dependence of people on the market. Self-reliance Self Sustenance. Has. Been replaced with total dependence. And that actually has an impact on the self-confidence and self-esteem of people. When we talk of local knowledge. And the replacement of local knowledge. People lose out on this self-confidence the self-esteem and self-reliance.

You should be looking like us it could be an institution it could be a country it could be a civilization, could be a region it could be a section of community it could be market, and a particular section in the market, and it could be an advertising agency who wants you to look like people they are advertising.

We lose identity we lose address we lose the language we lose our food we lose our systems we lose our knowledge we lose their practices and we lose ourselves completely. Lose autonomy, lose autonomy, lose our freedom.

END

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CREDITS

TANYA’S VOICE:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON KNOWLEDGE. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

You can contact Nadia Bergamini via BioversityInternational.org.

Reetu Sogani would like to thank the women of Chak dalar and Chama chopra in the Bheerapani area, in Nainital district. The women in Talla Gehna in Nainital district. And the women in Tola area in Almora district.

She would also like to say thanks to the Chintan international trust-India.

Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife production. For more inform The music and sound has been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about Ajay Rastogi and the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast.

Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

 

 

 

Episode 7: ON ETHICS Transcript

Transcript: ON ETHICS

Link to simple landing page: here

John and Ajay Rastogi at Majkhali Village, Uttarakhand, India.
Recorded 27.10.2019

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Tanya:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In this episode ON ETHICS, Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in Uttarakhand, India, invites Dr. John Hausdoerffer, from Western Colorado University in Gunnison, USA, to speak about what constitutes Ethics today.

Both Ajay and Dr John, as his students call him, are part of an growing movement that calls for a new kind of ethics that views all places as part of our home, all generations and beings as part of our scope of responsibility, and all actions as potential expressions of human care for the world.

Dr. John and Ajay were at the Foundation’s HQ, the Vrikshalaya centre, in Majkhali village, at the foothills of the Himalayas, at the time of this recording. Every year Dr. John and Ajay lead students on an experiential Mountain Resilience Course, that is part of a longer-term Sister Cities program between Gunnison and Majkhali.

The long-term aim of the partnership is to share climate change solutions between the two Mountain Communities, and co-create a project based transformative Masters’ degree course that is both transferable and scalable.

I hope you can find time to relax and enjoy listening.

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Intro
Ajay: Hi, my name is Ajay Rastogi, and I’m joining in from Uttrakhand State of Central Himalaya. It’s a very beautiful afternoon. We have the majestic mountain views in the front, and I’m happy to have this conversation.

John: My name’s John Hausdorffer. I’m the dean of the School of Environment and Sustainability at Western Colorado University, and the founder of the Mountain Resilience Coalition, co-founder, and co-founder of the Resilience Studies Coalition, and a humble and honoured friend of Ajay Rastogi’s through our Sister City partnership between Gunnison, Colorado and Majkhali, India.

Dr. John Hausdoerffer

What are ethics?
John: For me, the ethics is different from morals. Morals or notions of right and wrong that we received from society, from elders, from family, from law, from religion, from popular culture, literature, philosophy, external claims about right and wrong. And ethics is our capacity to question, analyse, evaluate those moral claims as to whether or not we want to live our lives based on them or unsettle them and create new visions of how to live.

Ajay Rastogi at the Vrikshalaya Centre

In an outer sense ethics is about how do we know what’s good for the world beyond what’s good for me. How do we measure right and wrong beyond what’s right for me? How do we understand what brings good to any being, system or community with its own value? Whether it’s human or more than human? And how to extend our own value out into the world. But it’s also about internal resilience; What is the good life? And to me, these questions of the climate crisis, questions of social justice movements, questions of deep ecology, re-enliven in very ancient questions.

What does it mean to live a good life when seen from the point of view of social and ecological systems that sustain us from which we evolved? Of which we are a part? It’s really about the good life and re-asking old questions like “What is the world? Who are we? How are we to live?” with frameworks that come from a global consciousness about anything from our economy to the climate crisis.

And so, again, ethics is simple. It’s our ability to analyse moral claims, but it’s become really complex. Now that those moral claims involve things about ‘How driving to the corner store to get a gallon of milk might affect farmers on the other side of the world.’ These old questions are much more complicated now, as complicated as they were before.

SOUND: BELL

Ajay: The issues are far more complex. As Dr. John Hausdoerffer often has mentioned, and this whole thing of that we carried on for several decades about north south are temperate and tropics. It seems that this North-South divide is no more a clear cut north south divide, because there is a south in the north and there is a north in the south.

Every community seems legs to be fractured. And fractured so much that we have a highly multicultural societies that are evolving, multi class societies that are evolving, and to address these concerns of social equity above all, access. Access to basic amenities. On the one hand, we are seeing that the world is being destroyed.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician at Majkhali village. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

The biological diversity is being destroyed. The oceans are being destroyed. And on the other hand, we feel that there is a crisis of development because there is not enough water for the people. There is not enough food for the communities. So, this looks like a highly complex scenario where it cannot be just dealt with by technological solutions.

We need a certain kind of a transformation, maybe a radical change in the way we look around. I think within societies, the notions of development therefore need to be challenged.

If so few people with their affluence can destroy 90 percent of the resources of the world, or consume 90 percent of the resources of the world, how do we learn resilience to the entire society so that there is more equity and there is more ecological security? It is not just about outer resilience, but there is those of us who are privileged to have the resources. It’s also about our inner resilience to be able to share with others.

On the middle-class desire for ‘Greatness’
John: If we reduce the climate crisis to carbon emissions, we reduce climate actions to technological strategies for shrinking carbon emissions, we lose out an opportunity for growth in ourselves. And what I mean by that is that. When you look at the emergence of ecological science in the 20th century, or you look back thousands, ten, thousands of years, a traditional ecological knowledge both come with an evolution of perceiving the complexity of living systems in the human place in them and an expansion of our capacity to care for that complexity.

And I worry that when we reduce ecological problems, social ecological problems, either natural resource, quantity or tons of carbon in the atmosphere, we lose out on the opportunity for inner growth, for expanding our capacity to perceive of, and care for complexity in a new way.

Gas, 1940, by Edward Hopper

It’s really about the growth of the human spirit that I’m worried about as much as I’m worried about deforestation and loss of snowpack, I’m worried about, the commodification of the human capacity to care through just seeing the value of the natural world is quantifiable resources, reducing our role in the world to doing less bad rather than our role in the world as loving, perceptive beings.

I think that the moment we’re in is a great opportunity to work across cultures, to grow that capacity to care, and if we just frame it around carbon emission reduction by 2050 we’ve lost the deep ecology moment that we’re in.

Arne Naess reminded us to make a distinction between bigness and greatness, and I would also ask us to make the distinction between smartness and greatness. It’s nice to humble ourselves and to — think of the language here –shrink our carbon footprint, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Leave no trace.

But at least speaking for middle class Americans, we’re not inspired by making ourselves smaller. We want that greatness that Naess was talking about, but greatness doesn’t need to mean bigness in terms of our global impact.

Greatness can be around a great capacity to care for each other, a great understanding of ecological complexity. A great and compassionate global community.

And the alternative to big is not just shrinking ourselves. Ajay was sharing with my students the story of Lakshmi, who represents eight kinds of wealth. Ajay? So we think about richness in so many ways. You know, there’s all these kinds of richness. We’re looking at together; social capital, human capital, cultural capital, intellectual capital, natural Capital.

SOUND: BELL

A new context for old questions

John: One of the things we were talking about yesterday, Ajay and I, looking out at the Himalayas was how some of these questions that are emerging from the climate crisis and emerging from global equity and poverty are old questions. And what we were asking the students is that, you know, are they comforted by the fact that these are old questions or are they disheartened by the fact that these are old questions?

There is a concern that lack of inner resilience, that whole inside of us driving a kind of external greed that will destabilise us inside, but also create injustice in the world on the outside.

That relationship to an inner and outer resilience is what Jay and I have been talking about with our students is at the core of ethics. How does an outer resilience movement like, for example, sustainable agriculture or water conservation or renewable energy, stem from and how is this sustained by a kind of inner resilience?

And how does our inner being find fulfilment and satisfaction from those outer resilience efforts? If those two aren’t merged…. I know plenty of American organic farmers or environmental non-profit workers who got burned out.

Enviro-non-profits have a high turnover rate and so they may be doing out resilience work with their collapsing for lack of inner resilience.

We’re trying to find that sweet spot as the core of ethics in the Anthropocene.

SOUND: BELL

What is resilience?

John: So resilience, I hesitate to offer a simple definition because resilience emerges from so many cultures and time periods. But in the Western scientific discourse, it really starts with, in my view, Aldo Leopold, the American conservationist who did not even use the word resilience, but when he talked about the health of land, he talked about the capacity for self-renewal. And that gets at the core of resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt to shock or disturbance.

Before ecology we’ve seen that word used in psychology, how people respond to trauma, whether they grow from that healing or collapse from it. But in ecology, it really emerged from Buzz Holling in 1973. And he really shook up ecology and the sciences and talking about the capacity to persist, because for him it was no longer about nature’s equilibrium. It’s no longer about how an ecosystem reaches a sort of climax community status and then has natural balance.

For him there is this adaptive cycle that requires disturbance. And so suddenly resilience is about the capacity for a system to absorb and adapt to disturbance, to thrive on the other side of that disturbance. So, thinking about a low intensity forest fire clearing out excess of dead and living trees to allow for the understory and the forest to thrive in the habitat to thrive.

By the 21st century, we have Brian Walker and David Salt taking Hollings’ notion of the importance of disturbance. And they’re actually now using that phrasing in a definition. They’re saying resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance.

But the real turning point has been in the last decade. I think there’s been a revolution how we think about resilience. An essay by Carl Folke, 2010. He talked about the capacity to create a fundamentally new system. Now, Carl Folke, talking about transformational change is the definition of resilience. So, resilience is now the capacity to create a fundamentally new system, literally transforming our political systems around capping carbon or a carbon tax or disrupting campaign finance, so that oil and gas companies no longer have so much power.

Carl Folke

It’s about building awareness into our citizenry. And really what he says, here is a quote from me says, “Transformational change often involves shifts in perception and meaning, social network configurations, patterns of it, of interactions among actors, including leadership and political and power relationships” Right? So suddenly resilience is about activist democratic co-creation of economics, social, political, environmental justice.

I was lucky enough to talk with Vandana Shiva in 2018 about this. I just asked her point blank. What’s your definition of resilience? And she said, “Dealing with illusions is the resilience of our time.”

So think about that arc, you know, from Leopold’s capacity for self-renewal to Buzz Hollin bringing disturbance into how we understand ecological systems, to Folke talking for transformational change, to Vandana Shiva just saying resilience is just whether or not we can deal with illusions.

And I think those illusions are outer and inner. The illusions can be the way in which companies have spent billions of dollars to get people to doubt scientists, but illusions can also be internal. The illusion of the separate, individualistic self being fulfilled by consumption. That illusion is also driving resilience, the illusion that we’re not part of one global community together, we’re in competition with each other.

Vandana Shiva

SOUND: BELL.

How can outer resilience drive inner resilience?

How do we become renewed when we work together to renew the world that’s inner and outer resilience? The second layer, though, is going back to Arne Ness when he talks about realisation. Already using realise in a double way, you know, he’s first we’re first intellectually realising, like Eureka, my self is bigger than just my mind. My self extends out into the river that he protested through chaining himself to a dam. Right that was part of his larger self. He realised that intellectually, from saying, OK, collagen interconnects, everything physically, why wouldn’t it interconnect the self with the world?

But I think realisation for him is also about you make something real. So, you realise your full potential of yourself through intellectually realising it is the world, but also through fighting for the realisation of a free-flowing river. You are realising your own self-actualisation, but also the liberation of your larger self.

Self-realisation again, there is an inner and outer resilience coming together. Ani ness chaining herself to a dam right as a way of realising his self-actualising potential. I mean, just last week in United States, the actors Ted Danson and Jane Fonda; He’s 71. She’s 81, they were handcuffed and arrested for protesting climate change.

Sitcom prime time actor Ted Danson said “Being handcuffed focussed me.” Now, think of that. It’s an outer action to push fellow citizens to take on climate change. But what do they say there? “It focussed me.” So how will he be energised from that focus. It’s almost like Thoreau saying: “The jail cell in a slave society is the only place for a free man,” Right? It focussed him in civil disobedience.

There’s that inner resilience.

Jane Fonda and Ted Hanson arrested at Climate Crisis demonstration at Capitol Hill.

 

On the Mountain Resiliency Course at Majkhali Village
Ajay: So in 2016, we developed a collaboration with the Western Colorado University and a graduate student. That time, Brendan McNamara. He visited us and we in collaboration designed a course which is now called Mountain Resiliency. It’s a three-credit course.

And students have been coming for the course together with the dean, Dr. John Hall, staffer and the course is being offered in much cuddly. It’s a month-long course. We also have customised courses for different universities, which could be shorter duration anywhere between a week, ten days to two to three weeks. And the mountain resiliency module is getting quite an attention, in terms of how much transformation it can bring about in the students.

This is a course which started with this thinking of place-based learning and place-based learning based on those three pillars of dignity, of physical work, interdependence and interconnectedness.

But we are encouraging students to think and to interact with people in the community who understand more about those themes.

So, for example, one theme in the mountain resilience course place-based learning is local co-operatives, which is about the five forms of capital.

How do the students understand that it’s not just the economic or the financial capital that is important, but an enterprise should build ecological capital and social capital, natural capital and human capital?

So for that, we go to a local co-operative who has been working here with 2000 women as members and we learn from them. How have been your experience of building these five forms of capital in the institution?

Similarly, another theme is lifestyle thinking. Lifestyle thinking is about the purpose that you mentioned. OK, so what is the purpose? How about happiness? What are the sources of happiness? Is it just about acquiring and consumption? Or is it about social connectedness? Is it about the meaning of how we relate to each other? Is it about trusted relationships?

About the interconnectedness? Then we think about in how many forms do we get what we need from the landscape and how do we maintain reciprocity and equilibrium with the resources that we get from nature? So, It’s also about traditional ecological knowledge, about agriculture, about forestry use, about livestock, etc..

Now, water is another very big issue in the mountain areas. And water also, as you know, connects right from the watershed down to the spring and to the kitchens of the people. So how do we take care of the water? What are the traditional norms of taking care of the water?

Why are the forests in the catchment of water springs sacred? How does it relate to our customs in this society? And do those customs help us in more rejuvenating water use for everyone?

So that’s how the place-based learning module has been evolving.

One very important aspect of the course is a walking journey. We have just finished in this course. It is walking journey like last time, we passed through villages. We talked to the people. We have discussions. We have circle time.

Students get to go across different kinds of village, different kinds of agriculture around the villages, different utilisation of the forests, and then they can talk to the communities. It’s also intergenerational learning because when we talk to the youth, you get a different response. When we talk to the elder, you might get a different response.

How do you reconcile the aspirations of the youth? So, I think students are able to grasp the social complexity, the ecological complexity and the cultural complexity.

It is not just about carbon. It’s a whole lot of a complex scenario that we are facing in this society. And to be able to comprehend it, to be able to contemplate what would be the possible scenarios of intervention, that is little bit about the outer resilience.

Now, if you turn it other way down, what is my responsibility? How do I accept my privileges? What do I do as a responsible citizen in this scenario? I think that is where the inner resilience also plays a big part.

Diwali and notions of wealth
The social events like for example; we are at the moment celebrating Diwali. The students are a part of those festivities in the village. What is the message that the Festival of Diwali gives? What is it? What is the concept of wealth? Because in the valley, the general notion is that we offer prayers to the goddess of wealth. And the wealth is not just about money. So, it is about liberation. It’s about food security. The wealth is also courage to be able to behave responsibly. We need courage. And courage is a kind of well, it is. Wealth is also about being able to follow the path of resilience and also how we can destroy the suffering.

So, we need to be giving up certain things and taking up certain other things to be able to make these adjustments in life.

It’s a beautiful course that students are able to experience in a different culture.

SOUND: BELL.

Sister cities

John: One of things we’ve done out of a concern that American students don’t simply swoop into a community where their guests think they can solve problems and swoop out without a proper needs assessment, without humbly co creating solutions with community leaders, is that beyond the course which lasts a month, we’ve created a sister city partnership between Gunnison City Council in Colorado and Majkhali leaders here, so that there is a continuity between each year’s course and one of the glue between each year.

Undergrad course is a graduate student living in Majkhali, keeping a mountain conversation alive when the course is not happening so that students feel like if they contribute something in Majkhali, it’s within the intellectual capital of this community and can continue beyond their presence here, knowing that they’re part of a larger self that students will come long after they’ve left.

Project based Master’s degree courses at Colorado University

Brandon MacNamara designed this with Ajay. He did it as his master’s project. And when I created the Master and Environmental Management Program at Weston, I did away with the thesis, and said the world needs these students defending theses to expand knowledge, but why do we have master’s degrees?

Why not to extend the reach of visionary but overextended organisations by requiring a yearlong project for that organisation? Five years later, we’re sending twenty-five thousand hours of these projects around the world to extend that reach for organisations, and we’ll have a thousand of those by 2035.

But they’re playful. Students don’t just get bogged down in complaining about who the US president is and what the global impact of that arrogance is. They are playfully creating solutions. We call the IMBY program instead of not in my backyard. In my backyard. What do you want to create? What do you want to grow? What kind of wealth do you want to promote? Scale it up.

Yeah, actually through the United Nations Mountain Partnership there, they’re connecting me with what they see as a similar project driven programs around the world. The Resilience Studies Consortium I’ve started is looking to find those partners. We found a beautiful one. Eberswalde, a university in Germany? We have a nice partnership with them. The first the job is to create an excellent model. We haven’t perfected what we’re doing yet. We never will.

SOUND: BELL

On Inner and Outer Resilience
I’d like to expand on inner and outer resilience. Ajay was talking about water, and one of the aspects that we share between sister city communities is water.

We both are on the edge of major mountain ranges. We both rely on snowpack, from spiritual fulfilment to economic need, to forest health, to eco tourist potential, to family traditions. And in Colorado, there’s a community, San Louis, Colorado. Someone you should interview one day is, Devon Pena, writes brilliantly about San Louis, Colorado, and what happened. There was Culebra Peal, a fourteen-thousand-foot, or four or five thousand metre peak.

The snowpack of that mountain is not necessary for a two-hundred-year-old food system in the town of San Louis. It’s Hispanos traditional farming community that uses ditches, bringing gravity fed water to the fields. That water is managed democratically. So, water, democracy and that water actually expands the riparian ecosystem.

So, the way in which that community produces their livelihood and sense of cultural self, the food of their ancestors in their stomach, also renews the ecosystem. How exciting is that, when we have examples in the modern era of social livelihood resulting in more biodiversity, rather than less?

And that’s not just a movement making itself smaller. That’s finding a new great story of human communities as co-creators of social ecological renewal.

That’s been disrupted. Logging companies have tried to clear cut on the mountain, which speeds up snowmelt, threatening the growing season.

The movements there have been really resilient, though.

We’ve seen examples of, conservative in some cases farmers, linking arms and chaining themselves to a gate with Earth First tree sitters. They care about those trees for different reasons. But there’s something resilient in the intersection between them.

For me, out of resilience really is really told by that story that to have the resilience of that forest ecosystem protected from a clear cut, we need the social resilience of a community’s water democracy, which needs the cultural resilience of that community’s diet and traditional food practices; its deep food, which needs the emotional resilience of its youth.

Many of the youth of that community are leaving for economic opportunity in Colorado Springs and Denver. And it is a lack of that deep connection to the intrinsic value of being of that place among the youth that’s going to be the tipping point for the rest of that community’s resilience collapsing.

We don’t have a next generation that feels spiritually fulfilled in doing the hard work of managing that community’s food system. Suddenly, the expanded riparian system, as well as the food system, as well as people who protect that forest as well as people who want to protect the amount of snow on that mountain will collapse.

And I’m finding that here as well. On our trek to the Himalayas. Interview after interview with Community Elder, they talked about the loss of youth to economic dreams in Delhi. Now, even the ancient stone walls are starting to crumble because the youth are leaving.

How to build inner resilience in the youth, spiritually and I don’t mean religion, I mean fulfilled as beings in a place so that then cultural, social, ecological resilience follows?

Ajay: It’s a very big question as to how do we connect our youth to the beauty of the place and wisdom of the past? It’s not an easy answer.

It’s also rooted in the fact how and what is projected as respectable in the society. And that, I think, has changed.

It was, I think, possible if the environmental degradation was not there to the extent that we have seen, it’s also to do with the policies of the British Commonwealth. Now, the big change that has come about is in the last 25 years.

What we are seeing is that the educated youth would venture out from the communities and they would find certain employment. But the rest of the family would be here. And therefore, the lands would be fertile. Their traditions would continue. The festivals will happen, the deity…The resident deities of the landscapes would be offered prayers regularly. Now, if the whole families migrate out, then it is an even bigger question. How do we keep those lands productive?

Food systems used to be kind of the central pivot for a society. Most of the festivities, the ceremonies and the connectedness with the landscapes was around food systems. So just the economic answers may not be able to fulfil the needs. Although it may seem that economics may be at the root of beginning trying to bring a change. It appears that connecting to the roots, the identities of the place, the ancestral locations that we have. I think those are the kinds of bigger connects that will bring us in with a better comprehension of wholeness, that I would feel, not just by being myself a lot, but in a community and a community which is not just about neighbours, but it’s also about the trees and the forests and the water and the air and the mountains.

Camping on a hiking trip in the Himalayan lowlands.

John: We ended our trek from much collie and Kausani and visited with Jay’s friend Deeraj runs B2R, you are as a company dedicated to keeping the youth in the mountains in the foothills of the Himalaya through having them serve banks and other industries through mass data analysis and double checking PDFs and things like that. And they take an incredible amount of pride, as Deeraj put it, in being participants in a global conversation in their little mountain town.

Would even Deeraj would say, you know, as proud as he is of that, he really wants to then have that transition into a more holistic connection with their place. He’s done it for 10 years. He’s employed three hundred mountain peoples, youth mainly. But for him, it’s half the battle to keep them in the town.

And the question is, what is the value of that life in that town? And how do you make that mountain life in itself whole? Rather than making it feel like a mini Delhi? And I think that’s where Ajay and the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature really comes in. To connect people to the sacred value of the land they walk on through the dignity of work.

Yes. One should take great pride in being educated technically in this new economy and finding a voice in that economy by walking from the farm to Deeraj’s computer station. But how can one have the same level of dignity, if not more, from returning home and milking the cow or splitting wood, repairing that ancient stone wall, repairing that ancient stone temple?

I think the dignity of work and the dignity of mountain work must merge with bringing opportunities to mountain communities, and there’s something in that bridge that’s necessary.

SOUND: BELL

On renewal

John: I think a lot of what this conversation is about is about renewal.

When we talk about renewal. We’re talking about anything from ecosystems capacity to renew itself, to certain cultural practices, renewing themselves, to keeping and having that spiritual renewal in the face of a collapse of a way of life.

And, thinking about, you know, beyond the Himalayas, where, by the way, the infrastructure for that kind of connection with renewing cultural and social and ecological systems that are traditional, that infrastructure is still there. Whereas the United States is being rebuilt, in a lot of cases we’re seeing audit growth in farmers markets, we’re seeing a lot of backyard gardens. There’s a really inspirational place in Chicago called Eden Place, where the south side, where the predominantly African-American community that had hardly lead contaminated soil has renewed that land by cleaning up the soils, turning into community gardens, and then renewing that confidence, in being a land based people, after their ancestors left the south because of what happened on the land.

So, it’s not just a renewal of lead contaminated soil. It’s also a renewal of the spirit of a people who are traumatized by land itself. And so, I think we’re starting to see renewal come together and all of these ways. Renewal from cultural trauma. Renewal from ecological collapse.

Vandana Shiva talks about the living energies that are still embedded in the infrastructures of rural India, while fossil fuel driven infrastructures are coming in rapidly in food systems with pesticides and tractors and highways, systems and automobiles and industry.

She’s saying, you know, these living energies are still here and the energy of the cow, and the energy of compost, the energy of shared networks of labour, the energy of the sun, the rain. Those living energies are very much still in place. And her concern is if we shift fully into that fossil fuel infrastructure, a lot of carbon will be released in the atmosphere. Right, but you’ll also have that loss of renewal. People being displaced from their farms has led to a quarter million farmer suicides in this country in the last 20 years. Talk about the opposite of renewal.

I think a lot of this is about renewal, inner and outer resilience, and Brendan MacNamara, our colleague who developed this course with Ajay on inner and outer resilience. He’s adding this other form of capital that he’s calling spiritual capital. And I think for me, that’s not about making sure a certain religion is still followed, to me as being a spiritual being is simply being more than a body that consumes bodies in a global economy.

Two teenage boys at Majkhali Village.

Inner resilience is a thing in itself that’s not taught enough. We have enough doom and gloom about, oh, the loss of the Ganges, and the loss of the Om glacier, and that kind of fear of loss is just not a sustainable fuel in that instead, we have to start talking about what are we going to gain? And if we see them in a reciprocal relational way, inner and outer resilience.

Maybe they keep each other alive rather than just, if we make people feel scared and guilty enough, maybe they’ll do some mindfulness exercises so they keep fighting against climate change and don’t burn out, then go on a mindfulness cruise, right Ajay?

SOUND: BELL

A young perspective

[Actually, on the track, my 8-year-old and 11 year old daughters joined us and you know, they understand the changes happening around them. They’re not that much younger than Greta Thunberg. And they have some clarity and some climate anxiety, and I just asked him on the track. I said, how is it fun? How is it more fun to fight climate change?

And one daughter said, Well. If we have a pretty yard with fun plants that attract butterflies, we’re not using gas to mow the lawn in the yards, more fun.

And I think my daughter was onto something there. There’s beauty, there’s fun, there’s creativity. We are talking about the core of our evolutionary species being. What are we, if not adaptive, creative being’s right? Karl Marx said we’re producers, which means we can imagine something in our mind and make it real in the world. That’s somewhere most human.

Why not view these climate solutions as playful, carnival last celebratory expressions of our evolutionary species being as adaptive and creative members of this blue ball flying through space?

The American middle class of the last three generations represents the first time in which private life has been more pleasurable than public life. And that’s very dangerous.

END

SOUND BRIDGE

CREDITS

SOUND: TANYA SUMMER GARDEN

TANYA:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON ETHICS.
You can find more information on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

Many thanks also to Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. If you would like more information on Courses in Resilient Thinking for both students and professionals, please write directly to Ajay via foundnature.org.

You can also follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and at Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Thanks also to Dr. John Hausdoerffer. Dr. John has written and co-edited books on the intersection of environmental ethics and social justice including “Catlin’s Lament“; Wildness and his upcoming book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be?

He is also the founding Dean of the School of Environment & Sustainability and Director of the Master in Environmental Management (MEM) program at Western Colorado University. . He co-founded the Coldharbour Institute with Butch Clark on 350 acres of land east of Gunnison, Colorado, to exemplify sustainable mountain living in the Rockies. He also co-founded the Resilience Studies Consortium to unite environmental programs from liberal arts colleges across the world, so they can provide what he calls “multi-place, place-based education in hands-on, interdisciplinary “learning laboratories.”

You can find more information on Gunnison’s “Sister City International” partnership with the Himalayan community of Majkhali, on https://sistercities.org/

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast, so please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

Yvette Neshi Lokotz: ON BELONGING

Yvette Neshi Lokotz is the CEO of the Star Nations Organization, that publishes a magazine and creates and sends out a variety of radio programmes that hope to contribute to a shift in mindset and increased sacred connections across cultures and geographies.

Neshi is also a tribal member of the

, with Ho Chunk Nation and Yaqui Nation descent. She was raised in the traditions of Ho Chunk and Potawatomi since birth. Neshi teaches about Native American hand drums, drumming, the medicine wheel lifestyle, and space clearing.

Neshi has more than 12 year’s experience making drums and has taught hundreds of people how to make their own hand drums. She has over 30 years of space-clearing experience and has lived the lifestyle of the medicine wheel her entire life.

Neshi lives in Tomah, Wisconsin.

NESHI INTRO

Bosho, that’s hello in Potawatomi. My name is Yvette Neshi Lokotz, and I am from Turtle Island, the United States, and I am a Native American woman.

I would like to introduce myself in the old way. You always want to know who your people are, see if you’re related.

SOUND: NeshiDrumming_6/4/19_2.mp3

(Introduces in Potawatomi language)

(Nesh nabe nos wen, Bneshikwe. Nshe dodem tthigwe. Dwagen, Tomah Wiscconsin. Nshe mesho, Skama-ben. My Gaga, Ho Chunk, Spreading Wing. Nshe nos, Kabance-ben. Nshe no ye nan, SheweKwe.

My name is Bneshi-kwe, which means bird woman, , my clan is Thunder. I live in Tomah, Wisconsin. My grandfather, Misho, Shkama-ben. My grandfather’s name was Shkama-ben that he has walked on; He’s passed away. And his native name, his Indian name, meant new chief. My grandmother who is Ho Chunk, I don’t know how to pronounce her Ho Chunk name but it meant ‘Spreading Wing.’

And my father, Kabance-ben means that he passed away, the ben part, but Kabance means to Walk On Earth. And it’s really about the imprint of the moccasin in the soil on Grandmother Earth.

And my mother who is still living. She-We-Kwe means ‘Leading Elk’. And so that is how we would normally introduce ourselves so they have an idea of how to address you. It’s all about who is connected to you. It’s much more personal.

SOUND: Rattle.wav

Neshi Lokotz Sacred Hoop Drum Maker and CEO of Star Nations, and Star Nations Radio

NESHI INTRO CONTINUED

I’m an enrolled member tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation, the Prairie Band. There are nine bands of the Potawatomi Nation. When we were forced onto reservations is when we kind of got split up that way. And that’s on my mother’s side. Her father, my grandfather. Skama-ben, he was he was the Potawatomi.

We follow the patriarchal line, and this has more to do with the colonization. We’re enrolled underneath my grandfather’s who was an original lottee number when he went to the reservation.

My grandmother on my mother’s side is Ho Chunk. We might classify her as an activist. She was she was one of those people who would be a part of changing the norm. And so she was a very strong woman. My grandmother on my mother’s side.

Ho Chunk has been in Wisconsin for hundreds and hundreds of years. The Potawatomi started out on the East Coast and migrated west.

On my dad’s side, he was a Mexican Indian. Yaqui is his nation. Where he is from would have been around the southern border between Texas and northern Mexico. The Yaqui nation actually is on both sides of a border now. (laughter) Before there was a border.

I also have some French Canadian as well intermarried into the Potawatomi Nation and also the whole nation as well.

That is the connection to Turtle Island.

Illustration of the Turtle Island Creation story by Jane Schnetlage

 

On Turtle Island

Turtle Island is really comes from an indigenous creation story. What we’re talking about is the United States. And the story goes the creation story goes is that the creator created man.

And that what happened was that

there was this this rain. It was a deluge. And there wasn’t any land to speak of. And so animals and we’re trying to survive. The animals would volunteer to dive all the way down to bring up soil to create to create an island. The turtle volunteered to carry the soil on its back. so that we could all survive.

It was the muskrat that was able to dive all the way down, and grab handfuls of soil to bring it up. And so that is how Turtle Island got to be. And how everybody got to survive and to thrive, is because they all worked together. And it was the turtle who volunteered to carry us on its back. So, we have a very strong connection to turtle. Turtle medicine. And it means that you’re very grounded and connected to grandmother earth, and you also have a way to protect yourself too.

On a multicultural background

Growing up in the household that I did, there was one way to communicate there, and experience life there, and then I would go to my grandparents’ house, and that was another layer of a way to communicate, because there are certain ways like any other culture, right? You don’t look an elder in the eye. You don’t keep that constant eye contact, it’s disrespectful. You’re not asking a million questions. You know and those kinds of things. And so then when you’d go to school it’s the complete reverse. It’s like if you don’t have eye contact. It’s disrespectful. If you’re not asking questions you’re not interested. (laughter) On occasion I would get into trouble. (laughter)

Neshi wearing traditional Medicine Dress

On Standing Rock

Standing Rock, literally it woke up the world. It shook the world. And so much came out of that both positive and negative. But really it brought the world together in that one tiny little space, they had over. 500. Indigenous flags flying. And people from all over the world came. Right. And the premise was to do this in peace and then the ceremony. And for the most part, that that was true. There are some things that occurred that you know.

The aftermath. But we all learned a whole lot from it. And. It really did ignite the passion and to for people to use their voice in their own backyards. Right. So, there’s a lot of things that have come out from this and the Sami came not once I think they were there like, three or four times different times over that.

It’s also a free press and they we’re really riding on the edge of an extinction of the free press. Really. We’ve been dealing with the US government for generations and we’ve survived we’ve survived them time and time and time again. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have people like Leonard Peltier still in prison. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a high proportion of numbers of Indigenous people in the prisons. But we’ve survived this government for a long, long time. A long time.

And so that that is why Standing Rock was so important because it was a renaissance that was reigniting, reclaiming our power as indigenous people.

Now many people would say that we don’t or that we don’t have much power. But Standing Rock really showed us that yes we do. And a very it turned out in a very quiet voice. And it was the youth that really brought it to the forefront and they turned to the elders that still knew the ceremonies that still knew how to call in spirit and have spirit present during that whole thing.

SOUND: Crickets.wav

Neshi On Spirit Guides

So many people non-native people non-Indigenous people to Turtle Island are still very, very interested in Native American or the indigenous culture. To be more specific in the spirituality. I encourage them to really search out who their people are.

But we’re carrying our ancestors’ wisdom and also their trauma in our DNA and our blood and in our bones. And so, we can make that connection through our ancestors. You don’t have to make that connection through my ancestry.

The culture I grew up in, we talked about spirit all the time, it wasn’t anything new, but coming into what’s been known as the new age world, realising that all these people had Native American guides. And I’m asking why don’t I have Native American guides? Because I don’t. So how come I don’t I have Chief Red Cloud as my spirit guide? And it’s like this because you call them ancestors. It’s like it’s like –oh OK so your light bulb went on.

But why do so many non-native people non-Indigenous people have Native American guides? Because they’re being taught or given opportunities to remember their connection to Grandmother Earth.

And so with indigenous people, our belief is really about our connection, that we have this very loving and strong connection to Grandmother Earth. Protecting sacred sites. Cleaning up the water. Picking up your own trash for goodness sake. Those kinds of things, right, is a calling on your spirit guides to help you to rekindle or reconnect to Grandmother Earth because it’s hard wired in us to like it’s in us humans. To protect what we love. And if we can remember how much we love the Earth Mother Earth grandmother guy up we’re going to protect her.

Being indigenous to this continent and growing up the way that I did. OK. There’s some things that I took for granted. In my culture, that I didn’t realise until I was a young adult…. is that when you grow up in the culture, the spiritual connection that we have to the earth, it’s just your life, it’s your way of being.

You don’t question why we do ceremony. and call in the four directions, why we address Grandmother Earth and grandfather sky. because everything goes back to grandmother earth. Our culture is based on our connection to her. It’s your life, it’s your lifestyle already.

There’s many of us who do keep that connection and nurture it because like any other relationship you’d have to pay attention to it. And so sometimes they think that we take for granted that kind of connection. It’s when someone else outs that’s not indigenous, they’re looking in to this life, they see this connection and they yearn for belonging.

And so I think that’s where you get a lot of people wanting to have the same kind of connection but really. Really trying their best to be able to do that. And sometimes it takes on a different a whole different role.

In order to have to retain and to foster to nurture that relationship to Grandmother Earth you have to practice it every day that becomes your lifestyle. That is your life. And so it’s a way of being and it’s a way of walking this earth is to be able to remember your connection to her and it becomes your lifestyle you live it every single day.

Yvette Neshi Lokotz

On cultural misapproproation

Cultural misappropriation basically, is a put a nice way of saying stealing. The using of another culture when it’s feeding your ego more than your soul then I think that you have to step back and say “What did I just steal?”

When you are an indigenous person and you’ve lived that life and you have people who are non-Indigenous coming into your home basically. you know your community, they feel like they can use it, without any of the training, without any explanation, without the foundational information. It’s for their ego more than it is for their soul.

And so that’s my two cents on cultural misappropriation is that many times it’s it’s being a part of themselves that is not a part of their spirituality. I think it is but it’s really feeding their ego. Those are the name droppers. They’re keen on the word Chief you know.

And I tell you there are some Native Americans some indigenous people who get very upset with this. They’re very upset because they you know I’ve heard it said that they’ve taken everything else and now they want to take our souls too. They want to take our Spirit.

On terminology and names

What do we call ourselves…. right. I agree it is important. Whether we call ourselves cells Native American or indigenous are First Nation is really for the benefit of the person that we’re speaking to that is non-native.

And it’s a misnomer. Let’s take the term Native American Native American really is what I would call a misnomer. OK. It has become antiquated because anybody who is born in the United States could could say that they’re Native American. So it kind of washes out the first people who were on this continent.

And so what, what do we ended up calling ourselves when we have multiple generations who have now resided in the United States. They came from a different continent. And so there is this term called colonisers and that we are being another thing being usurped from us. But. And. I in my world in actuality. The term Native American Doesn’t really describe the indigenous people here on Turtle Island, it really doesn’t describe, in truth the original people here. And especially not American Indian. (laughter) Because this this this man who said he found this new world we’re already here. And he was lost. He thought he was in the East Indies. That’s how we got the term Indian. That has nothing to do with the original people who were already here.

Now Canada has started a movement and calling natives from Canada Indigenous people from Canada started using the words indigenous. And also First Nation. Which I think is a bit closer to accurately describing people who were here originally on this. But you know what I tell you.

We slide back and forth between depending on who we’re talking to.
And I’ve also found that it’s generational.

Because my mother who just turned 100 on Saturday, she still uses the terms American Indian or Indian and also uses Native American. And no matter no matter how many times I will ask her, are referring to East Indian or indigenous people. And so, she’ll look give me this look and she says I’m referring to our people! (Laughter)

She was part of the mission school generation. And most non-indigenous people don’t realize that that’s still occurring that children are still being taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools to create a person who is more.

Non-native non-indigenous. Still happening in this century. Some things never change, I suppose.

Yvette Neshi Lokotz

 

You know, I think language in itself falls short of really truly describing the emotions that are underlying, because even when we use the word ‘indigenous’ we have to qualify it indigenous to what continent. because there are many people who are Indigenous, but indigenous to their own part of grandmother earth right?

And so I think we still have to qualify what part of Grandmother Earth are we referring to when we’re talking about indigenous people.

Indigenous. It’s a start.

In the Indigenous world we there is a belief that our culture is connected to our language. And so, when you lose the language you lose your culture and so much has already been lost. And so there has been a many and about two decades worth of a renaissance where many people are learning their indigenous language.

On home

Our ancestors survived. Survive so that we could be here. They went through so much for us to be here to live these lives. They went through genocide. They went through colonization. They did what they had to do to survive, so that we could be here. It makes us stronger. For what they did for us now when we talk about where’s our home.

And the thing is is that we have to be clear in. When we use the term ancestor when I’m using it I’m talking about and referring to them as this spirituality the spirit of not the physical the spiritual. Not the physical place. No.

When we’re talking about our connection to the earth. We belong to her not the other way around. Literally our bodies come from her. And our bodies returned to her. When our spirit is released.

Our complete physicality. Is connected to her are brainwaves or connected to her.

She literally gives us Life.

On ceremony

Ceremony and ritual touches that part of our brain. We recognize it. Oh something important is happening here.

It’s about making that connection, to nature – or to all that is really. The creator, all the planets, the sun, the moon, the four directions, to all the animals, to all bodies of water, to all things green, to those who fly to those who swim to those who crawl, all of creation. The entire universe.

So when you do those kind of ceremonies, we are all watching and listening and we are also feeling our connection to each other and to the earth, and to all of creation and that we’re reminded that that we are a member, of nature. That we’re not separate from it or separate from each other.

And so when you’re looking at nature. And the ecosystem that we’re all a part of. It’s a very large body that we call Earth.

You can’t take one piece out and take a look at it and say this is this is the only thing that we’re going to be concerned about. There’s something from an indigenous point of view is that all of Grandmother Earth is sacred. All of it is not just one aspect over here one aspect over there but the whole. Is sacred. And that we have a commitment to her. To take care of her. That’s why we call her grandmother. (laughter) is that we have a commitment to take care of her.

And so if we can look at her as a whole being rather than bits and pieces of, that we can start to remember our connection to her. And that we actually see ourselves as a whole being rather than bits and pieces.

You know there’s another thing is that we don’t we don’t own her. If she decided that she was done with the human race done with a two legged it would be so easy for her to shake us off her body.

We have such a loving and complicated relationship with her. And she literally we are one of her children. So how does how does a parent how does a parent corrector. Explain to the child why they can’t do this you can’t do that or why they should do something.

How does a parent do that?

Shows them consequences. And I think we’re being shown consequences. And so, for those of us that are awake and we see sense or feel it is to be able to use our voices in some way. To say you know let’s listen to this. Let’s go out and actually pick up some trash. Take your children with you to pick up the trash. Yes. Yes. No, it doesn’t. You know some people think that it’s so overwhelming. What can I do? You know I’m not going to affect anything but when everything that we do affects someone else. We’re so interconnected.

Start locally, start in your own backyard. What are you doing to effect your own home. What are you doing? And so you know and if you feel like that’s the extent that you can help. Well then that’s fine that’s good at least you’re doing something. There’s others that will take on a more regional or national or international… Because they’re meant to.

How are we planting our garden, how are we tending it? We live in a world of duality. When you see. The really negative and the very low vibrational side of it. What’s the opposite? Because there is an opposite. So where is that? Where is that? And go there put your energy in there.

With gratitude

I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated this opportunity to be with you and to express, my belief my heart. We’re all a part of the same universe.

And so thank you. In Potawatomi It is Kttche Megwech, which is a very large thank you and Igwien, Igwien is a more formal thank you that we reserve for elders and for special occasions. And so I want to tell you Igwien.

END

CREDITS 

TANYA’S VOICE:

SOUND: Tanya’s Garden in Sweden the Summer

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON BELONGING. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife production.

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast

We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

You can contact Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower via their website roguedwellings.com

Yvette Neshi Lokotz is the CEO of Star Nations, a multi-media company with a global community. Please see starnations.org.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast.

Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower: ON BELONGING

 Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower are the co-founders of Rogue Dwellings, and Andrew is also a contributer to Dark Mountain magazine. As a family they manifest their environmental activism in their way of life, free from land ownership, and through their presence at Standing Rock.

Andrew and Kayla Blacnflower, and their 5 beautiful kids born to tipi living; Rowan, Ayla, Sequoia, Tamarac and Raven inspire others to see how another type of parallel low-impact life is possible where we consume less and live more.

Living in handmade tipis that they teach others to make and travelling in an old school bus, the family invite strangers in for chai and a chat about life with respect for mother nature. Through their voices and sound recordings, listeners can feel a glimpse of how their everyday life also shapes a closeness to each other and how external resilience can in turn create an inner resilience, that also results in a softer impact on mother earth.

Podcast episode 6: ON BELONGING
Introduction:

TANYA’S VOICE:
SOUND: DIEGO INTRO

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

As Naess once wrote, there seems to be no place for PLACE anymore. The things, we need appear like magic into our lives. For that convenience we often have to sacrifice connection and community. We become isolated from each other as we become more dependent on faceless corporations to provide the things we need, rather than people who produce them. Our ecological selves are being separated from the very idea of home. But somehow, the loss of place is felt, on a deeper level, and the longing for home persists.

According to Naess and deep ecology, we need to articulate what it means to belong to a place.

For example,

Number 1. As humans, we are locally and globally connected at all times. Our everyday life patterns and culture interweave with every other living thing. We need to understand this experience if we are to create profound relationships of stewardship for our own lives and the lives of future generations.

Number 2. We must not confuse a place with our own house. We do not own a place. Other humans and non-humans have the right to be part of the ecology of a place.  It is important for us to share our sense of place with others, for that a place to thrive. It does not threaten our own identity or way of life to invite others to share the spaces where we feel we belong.

Number 3. Natural experiences are not commodities to be consumed. A place is a living entity, a collection of interconnected ecosystems. A place has a value independent of the services it provides humans. But humans can be an integral and natural part of an ecosystem.

Number 4. There is Wilderness and there is Countryside. One sees Nature as separate to humankind and the other sees humankind as a Keeper of Nature. Both concepts are human constructs.

Number 5. We need to regain a sense of scale. Places and their ecosystems are being degraded by massive amounts of waste. Microscopic damage is also occurring depleting the soil and our nutrition. We must also conserve the invisible equilibrium on which all life relies.

In this episode ON BELONGING, you will hear from three people who have thought a lot about what ‘home’ means to them and what defines our relationship to a place.

First you will hear the words of Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower, tipi dwellers and makers whose way of the life can be an inspiration to all of us to live lighter. Andrew and Kayla met and fell in love in Oregon in the States, and decided to raise their family with a closer contact to the earth and Mother Nature.

You will then hear the voice of Yvette Neshi Lokotz teacher of hand drumming and making, practitioner of the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop healing, and tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation.

Please listen to this podcast with your headphones.

Andrew Blanchflower, founder of Rogue Dwellings.

Andrew’s Story

My name’s Andrew. I’ve lived in tipis since the early ‘90s. The story goes back to those days in Hulme. We would go up to Saddleworth Moors and graze on mushrooms in the autumn. I think that was my first taste of the system that was bigger than any political system that there is the system that is…I could just call it Mother Earth or Gaia right now….

SOUND: Walking through woodland

We’d come back to Hulme like this low rise six story social housing disaster, which was actually great for squats and young, single people and ….I think I’ve forgotten that time of my life my early growing up until my late teens that there was such a longing and such a missing, like, I remember that when I see people in town these days just with that confusion or that… that kind of “there’s something bigger than this, I know that there’s something bigger than this or just something… that has to be more.”

I remember having these conversations the Shenyen who was then named Martin and it would be like: “What was the most amazing life that you could dream of, that you could imagine+” For Shenyen, it was being an ordained monk in India or Tibet. For me it was living in a tipi.

SOUND: Yorkshire-moors.wav

And then it was like “Okay well can we just, do you want to just try moving towards that and see what happens?” And so that’s what happened, and then I met people that live in a tipi community in Wales of all places and my people that live in tipi he’s in Wales all year round to me was a revelation that people could still actually do that.

And I met some of those people at various festivals, at Glastonbury Festival and various healing gatherings, and they were just making a cup of tea around the fire, and I was just perceiving these people like these amazing epic characters that knew how to just boil kettle in a few minutes.

SOUND: BLESSED BE SONG.m4a
SOUND: 2. ANDREW PENNYWHISTLE.wav

INTRO: KAYLA’S STORY

SOUND: 3. BACKGROUND BIRDS KAYLA.wav

I love the way we met. I think it’s, it’s so romantic. He was playing the penny whistle. There was one evening he was playing in this little town called Ashland in Oregon and at night he was playing his whistle on the street. And I was out for a walk. I was actually quite heartbroken that night. And I was going on a walk with a friend, sort of crying and sharing my, my broken heart. And then we parted ways this friend and I, and I heard this whistle in the distance. It just felt so healing and soothing to me and so I decided I would close my eyes and walk to where that whistle was coming from.

And now here we are. However, many years this is later. This is like almost 20 years later and we have five children. 

On Tipi Life

ANDREW Basically we live in tipis because we can be on the ground around the fire. Like it’s a way of manifest in our elements directly. I can get wood and water, find the spring or a creek or something. There’s like two basics taken care of as far as elements.

KAYLA At the moment everyone’s busy in the shop. All the kids are in there making things; we’re making shoes for the trip, and making backpacks, a travelling lodge and a bag for the travelling lodge, and Ayla is making some gifts. She wants to bring these baby carriers to give to some kids that she knows over there. Yeah. everyone’s really busy using the sewing machines right now and making things for the journey and that’s a lot of fun.

SOUND: 4. WHITE THROATED SPARROW.m4a

KAYLA So we have five children. All of our children were born to living in the tipi.

That’s sort of one of the things that I kind of captivated me about Andy was that he, he lived in a tipi and he had come from a tipi community in Wales, and he knew how to make them, and how, how to live in them in a way that wasn’t like roughing it or camping but quite luxuriously.

The Blanchflower Family

And so all of our children were born to the tipi. Not all of them were born in it. Some were born outside of the tipi or in water, or our firstborn was born in a birth centre. It was a beautiful birth and it was that birth that then set up the rest for us to be pretty strong about just having him and I be there for the births.

So, we had a midwife for our first child and she was a wonderful woman. She’s dear in my heart. I have sought counsel with her throughout all the rest of our children, but not as a regular midwife and she did not attend any more births.

I’m grateful for her and it really helped me get in touch with the wisdom in my bones of just how to how to birth with a lot of love with whatever family was around.

SOUND: 6. AMBIENT LODGE 1.wav &  7. AMBIENT LODGE WATER.wav

On  Tipi Village, from Wales to Oregon

KAYLA It was when we were pregnant with our second child that we wanted to just be somewhere wild where we could feel really comfortable and at home and so we decided to just go to those mountains in the distance, and we set up our lodge, and I don’t know a little while after we set it up maybe some days or so. someone came down and it turned out they were the title holders.

But they loved the Tipi. We made them tea which is what we’ll often do when surprise visitors come. And you know let the fire do its magic on them like it does. They came down and they had tea and they welcomed us and said that they you know they had access to thousands of acres. They opened it up to us. I mean that the short version.

And that’s where the valley the tipi Valley model where Andy came from in Wales had such a strong influence in this little place in Oregon which we ended up calling tipi village.

It’s amazing that those stories, those people, those events, in Wales they’re all of those how far they travelled and how they’re like seeds that floated over and just grew in this other place, and I guess stories do that. They kind of travel like that.

People would come and visit and find out if they wanted to stay for a while or not. It was a pretty organic process because you know, if if people were up for it, fetching wood and water and cooking on a fire, and living with the elements, and dealing with mould and rodents, and you know, rain dripping in and all of these things that have to be dealt with– then they would, you know, they’d make themselves a tipi and rise to it and love it —and

other people would find you know quickly or not so quickly that it wasn’t for them, and so there was no need for any, you know, egos to get involved to say you can be here. You can’t be here. The earth did the sorting out. I guess, maybe.

SOUND: 2b Rattle.wav

ANDREW Tipi Valley in Wales they always had that big lodge that was always open, and it brings so much perspective. If we want new stories new narratives, we can look back to stories that 5000 years old what’s so common in a lot of those folk tales, is the answer to the problem comes from the periphery. It doesn’t come from where we’re looking at the problem. Like it comes a spirit of the lake or an old woman in the roots of the tree or…. But we have to be open to that we have to be at that point. Maybe it’s not going to be until we’re at that point of desperation that we will be open to that and hear it.

SOUND: 8. DINNER BLESSING.wav

On what is home?

Fireplace and FIRE CRACKLING.m4a

Sewing in the workshop tent

KAYLA [00:10:58] What does home mean? These are thinking about these things are really they’re meaningful to me, and we talk about them often in our home. It’s been quite a thread for us because of I guess we kind of considered ourselves as ‘displaced’ which is interesting to say because Andy isn’t from the west of Turtle Island but we made our family there, all the kids were born there this whole village from out of the ground and blossomed there, other children in the community were born there.

For many years we all moved together seasonally. There was a summer grounds and winter grounds and so we’re very connected with a place there.

We moved within a range, a valley, and a mountain range and so we had high elevation camp and we had a low elevation camp.

We often hear that the only place where that’s normal is where you’re at like the Nordic regions is like that that kind of stuff is more widely accepted and known in here. It is a little bit. I mean sometimes we’re in places where we might be a bit more of the freak show. We don’t find so many but enough that we aren’t alone really. Right now, all winter we’ve been living on this beautiful ridge and with three other families.

I mean a community doesn’t need to be a huge amount of people, there’s enough people here where we can bounce off each other and there’s enough, you know, diversity be amongst the different skills between the grown-ups that the kids can like, you know, they go to what’s inspiring for them for input and there’s other children here and they have this wide open wild space to just be in and learn about together.

SOUND: 11. CRACKING FIRE & ROWAN.m4a

On Stories

KAYLA Because I think there is some great power to us knowing the stories of a landscape and feeling how our stories are woven into those stories and then we know our place because we know the land so I feel like home. Place is relevant in talking about home, but I don’t think it’s exclusive to place and I think it could be at least here in the United States, there’s that consciousness of its like its ‘settler colonialism’ that really claims a place and says this is mine.

ANDREW Stories really intimate and woven in with place, like they come from a place and they emerge out of the ground. As far as a new narrative is becoming apparent that a monolithic… a single narrative isn’t really the way forward. It seems like in order to find unity we’re having to kind of decentralise. Someone a few years ago on a radio show was talking about that the only thing that unites us is our uniqueness. Like the thing that unites us does our uniqueness. We’re all different. So the ability to adapt. We’re forgetting how to adapt.

People are forgetting how to write down on paper, through the seduction of convenience, people forget how to feel a bit uncomfortable, and just rise to the occasion. I don’t know what there is to do other than just try and be resilient and adapt.

ANDREW That brings it back to that relationship with place being something more dimensional than mere economics. It is just one single level or dimension of how a holistic relationship to ‘place’ can be.

Rogue Dwelling Tipi in snow

KAYLA I think at that time I might have been very much one to say that home in place were more closely related but then as Tipi village, I mean the story as tragic, and it’s beautiful and it was you know, the land titles shifted hands and that’s a long story.

It was enough for us that push was enough, and we got a school bus real quick and made a quick conversion and got on the road and for the first year I would say we travelled around just traumatized and gutted like we had lost everything that, that meant something to us like the birthplace of our children, and we had such a vision woven in with that place, of a future of a way forward that we were so dedicated to and believed so firmly in.

Tending the land, tending wild plants, returning seasonally, watching it grow, living lightly with a place, as a people, as a community. So then that’s when I think the journey of being separated from place but still maintaining home, began for me personally.

SOUND: NeshiDrumming_6/4/19_2.mp3 (DIEGO Arrangement)

On Standing Rock

KAYLA: And then we kind of heard that call to go to Standing Rock. Well not kind of. It came through really strong. That’s another story. I mean it was quite an incredible direction for us to head in, after having gone through the seven years of tipi village, and being able to be in a bus, with a workshop that made tipis, and we can just pull up to Standing Rock and make shelter and have our home with us. And I think that’s where maybe the journey began to shift for me in realising that home is much bigger than a place because we got there, and it felt like we met our people. I met our people.

And that our people live all around the world, like people were there from so many places, but there was such this common thread that united us. And we kept saying in so many ways it was like we had gone home.

It had such a profound impact on our lives. We were there for a year. It was the land of the paradox for me just the richest place I’ve been.

The spiritual richness was so potent that fire was burning so strong and that’s what kept us there for that long and the poverty and pain that’s there is equally as strong. It’s just the poorest and richest place. And I guess I am speaking beyond our time in camp at Standing Rock because we stayed on further with relatives that we met who live on the various reservations in the Dakotas and lived with them after the camps were closed down in February. We continued on, pitched our lodge with some other people who live between the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Rosebud reservation

On Nature and healing

ANDREW This thing that they pejoratively called the environment as if it’s an issue as if it’s something that needs to be taken care of as if it isn’t the whole of everything. All of life runs through this about out of proportion, I think.

KAYLA We’re all very present. We don’t have anywhere else to be except right at home and with each other. We’d like to say that sometimes it’s kind of like we have seven pairs of eyes were like this one body with all these eyes and all these noses and all these ears just kind of moving through space and time together and and so it feels like we’re that much more aware if we’re in it together taking care of each other paying attention to each other’s bodies. But we heat water on the fire. We have a washtub. That’s how we have baths. The healing journey requires getting sick together.

We’re blessed to have each other to have the family. I send a bit of that good feeling out to those who aren’t as fortunate to have a family container to hold them through their challenging times.

I feel humbled and blessed that we do have that with each other and we have all the time we’re so rich with time so there’s just no hurry or there’s no loss of job money. Getting ill, it has information in there of how to be live even better, how to be more activated in ourselves, maybe.

Our bodies are maps.

On being open

KAYLA With the way we move with in the bus and where we’ve been travelling across the country. It’s sort of been a requirement that we be very open. I mean I guess we could do it in a closed way but I just that’s just not the way we do it. We move really slowly and in a very open way always receiving whatever guests we meet. It’s it’s so curious to me the way a journey can unfold when we go with such open minds and heart.

Especially with technology these days we could really plan our route and plan where we stay and close our reality down so much with all this planning and being so destination bound, and then I think we miss out so much, and so, by being so open, we’re always in contact with so many different kinds of people, which I think grows in our kids a kind of adaptability and some resiliency. and a way to navigate different cultural contexts.

Cosy at home

ANDREW Well the way we’ve done Chai is to serve it straight out of the bus because we have a 1988 Chevy Bluebird school bus like classic American school bus, and that’s what we travel, we carry our whole trip in that which is a tipi and a 28 foot seven-sided tensile tent shop.

So we might just be pulled over in a rest area or in a town and we’ll put a sign up saying “Now serving organic Chai” on the sign is to say. Donations welcome and then we thought it has a poor aesthetic, so we just even scrubbed that off, and people still managed to make donations, and sometimes… sometimes someone wouldn’t leave anything, sometimes… most people leave a couple three dollars to occasionally someone’s left one hundred dollars or bunches of kale or someone’s brought us some venison or Buffalo or whatever.

Hearth living

We pull up in the town and the person who’s got TB poles on the roof is painted brown and it’s got water protective signs on the side and people are curious and often there’s a person in a uniform who’s bold enough to come and talk to us and you know we’ll charm them but. we have to invite everyone in for a cup of tea because if we don’t, if we’re not open, then we’re dangerous and we’re suspicious because we are so different.

And it is curious that there is a longing. People come in and they just smell it. And I don’t know what we smell like anymore, like mostly we just smell like wood smoke, I think, you know we’ll be cooking in there and there was a smell of chai and, time and time again, there’s just that longing for trust.

I think it’s it’s not like there’s no fear there anymore it’s more like a willingness to engage with that fear and maybe that’s what we have to do in order to stop plundering our ecology our environment is just give over and relax and know that there is enough abundance in the world.

Playing and learning skills

SOUND: 10. FIRE COOKING.m4a

Everyday life is our home

KAYLA There’s these threads we have that we bring through wherever we go; the tipi and the fire and all the dailies that are required to keep that functioning and I think those are like it’s kind of the main spokes of the basket. That kind of give it some structure, and some kind of that’s their identity maybe? Maybe it’s maybe it’s like this is what we we are as a family is is what we do. We have our bus and our lodge, and we move seasonally and we don’t claim any one spot but we like to meet lots of people, and love places as we go if it’s planting trees or building labyrinths or developing springs, at different places, or transplanting things, or gathering plant medicines or praying, building sweat lodges.

There’s so there’s so many ways that we engage with the places that we go and love them where we go and then and then we are moving on. But I have to say there is some heartache and sadness about…it’s almost like we have to keep moving because of the way the system is set up.

I’m not entirely like anti…staying in one spot and I don’t. I’m not against that. It’s just not viable unless we do it in this very entitled way. This land ownership thing but tending to a place and loving a place and getting to know the stories of a place and weaving into it, I think that’s profound.I think this is crucial really for a sense of well-being, and for our knowing our own individual place and all of creation.

Even when we look at hunter and gatherer cultures, I don’t think they that people have ever just wandered around that there’s been a purpose. If it’s going for. A certain food that is ready in a certain place with the certain time of year.

When the salmon run or when the maple syrup is flowing, the wild rice is ready.

ANDREW This time last year we were in New Hampshire and we were tapping maple trees where we made 15 gallons of maple syrup and we still have some leftover. It’s that way of just diversifying. From my experience of travelling with indigenous peoples, and indigenous cultures it’s like there’s a resilience woven into those kinds of cultures.

Looking back to the dictionary definition of what Indigenous means, basically emergent from place. If I can emerge from a place like the elements that make my body, that way is to be alive. If I can honour that as much as possible as part of a… like everything else in creation. I am a strand in a multi-dimensional shimmering tapestry of life that is all my relation, which means all my relationships.

Kayla

So, it’s like we have all these relationships not just the physical well I can see and hear and feel and touch around me. But things that make up what is me they the things within me and without me. How does that shimmer in the way that it’s supposed to in the way that all the rest of creation has the potential to do — if I can perceive it like that?

SOUND: REFRAIN OF  2. ANDREW PENNYWHISTLE.wav

KAYLA There’s intention and purpose. It’s not kind of a bumbling about so working with what we have, it’s been beautiful, there’s people here who take care of this place. They said come and be here for the winter. And so we have, we’ve arrived. We’ve been here as fully as we can. This is art we’ve loved this place. And it’s been amazing. Arriving in the fall when it was all going to sleep. And now being here in the spring in this completely new landscape that we don’t know a lot of these plants and trees and they’re all waking up and coming alive and surprising us at every turn. We had no idea. We were surrounded by trees that were going to give off so much colour in the spring. It’s been beautiful to get to know a new place.

It’s been quite an epic and beautiful journey. A lot of it just feeling like it’s a journey of coming more whole, and a lot of weaving.

I think we weave so beautifully together, Andy and I.

Living light means living in harmony with nature, with the least negative impact

END

 

Professor Tim Kasser: ON HAPPINESS

Very happy to have Tim Kasser on episode 4, ON HAPPINESS.

Tim received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Rochester in 1994, and after one additional year of teaching at Montana State University, he accepted a position at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he is currently a professor of psychology.

He has authored over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on materialism, values, goals, well-being, and environmental sustainability, among other topics. His first book, The High Price of Materialism, was published in 2002 (ISBN 978-0262611978); his second book (co-edited with Allen D. Kanner), Psychology and Consumer Culture, was released in 2004. In 2009 he co-authored a book (with Tom Crompton) Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity. In 2013 he wrote Lucy in the Mind of Lennon, a psychological biography that explores the meaning of John Lennon‘s song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Most recently, in 2018, he collaborated with the cartoonist Larry Gonick on HyperCapitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them.

Since the early 2000s, Kasser has consulted with activist and civil-society organisations who work against the commercialisation of children and who work towards a more inwardly rich lifestyle than what is offered by consumerism. He lives with his wife, two sons, and assorted animals, including a donkey named Earl, in the western Illinois countryside.

TIM INTRO

So, my name is Tim Kasser. I’m Professor of Psychology at Knox College which is in Galesburg Illinois in the United States. And I’ve been studying people’s values and goals and how they relate to well-being and ecological damage and other kinds of things for about 30 years now.

At the time that I started to move into the ecological work, I had already been doing a lot of work on people’s values and goals and how they related to their own personal well-being, as well as to some social outcomes. And then a guy named Kirk Brown actually approached me and said “Well what about ecological stuff?”

And so we did a study together right around the year 2000 actually where we began to look at how people’s values and goals related to ecological outcomes, so people’s ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours. That really sparked my interest and so I started to do more work in that realm.

From a psychology’s perspective there’s all this focus on well-being but pretty much the focus is on how happy is this person, how not depressed is that person, how you know satisfied with life is this person.

But there’s relatively little comparatively about well-being involves living well in a way that doesn’t damage other people’s opportunity to live well and doesn’t damage other species opportunities to live well and doesn’t damage future generations opportunities to live well.

If we really want to understand well-being, we have to get beyond I guess what you would call the user there or what the psychologist would talk about with regard to personal well-being. And we really need to focus on social and psychological well-being as well. 1.51

Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them

One of the major things that you would hear from politicians and others was that we can’t focus too much on the environment because that will decrease people’s well-being because they’ll have to give up X and give up y and give up Z.

And so, what we really tried to do, and we were I think the first people to do was to set out to test that idea. So, is it the case that psychological well-being and ecological well-being are incompatible, or might they actually be compatible?

And so in two studies we measured people’s personal well-being so their life satisfaction their experience of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. And then we also measured their ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours and what we found was that actually in both samples personal and ecological well-being were positively correlated. That is, happier people tended to also be living more ecologically sustainable lifestyles.

And I’d say a little bit more about that finding from the Brown Kasser study, but I want to note that two years ago I did a summary of the literature on that, and it turns out that that finding that personal well-being and ecological well-being are positively associated has now been replicated about 15 or 20 times in other samples, cross culturally, with lots of different kinds of measures of well-being, with lots of different ways of measuring environmental behaviour as well.

So, it does seem to be a rather robust relationship that Kirk and I discovered back in 2000.

The other thing that Kirk and I were interested in is what is it that allows personal and ecological well-being to be positively correlated.

What were the psychological mechanisms, if you will, which allow those two things to go in concert with each other.

We looked at three different possibilities all of which had some data to support them. So the first one which was the thing I’d been studying for quite a while was people’s values and what we found was that part of why people who are happy are also living more sustainably is that they focus on values for their own personal growth and their own connection to other people and helping the world.

And they focus less on values like making a lot of money having a lot of possessions having the right image being popular. All those values and encouraged by consumer capitalism. So, one of the reasons that people can be both happy and sustainable is if their values orient them in a certain way.

The natural outcome of a focus on those intrinsic value is we call them instead of the materialistic values is to be happy in the moment, is to live more sustainably.

On Mindfulness

A variable that Kirk had been studying for some time, which is called mindfulness. And so, Kirk was one of the early people in psychology to really look at mindfulness, which is the ability to be with one’s thoughts in the moment in a non-judgemental way.

And so again what we found was that people who were more mindful were also living more sustainably and happier at the same time. So, there’s something about mindfulness which conduces towards both of those kinds of wellbeing outcomes.

Hyper Captialism book illustration

On Lifestyle

And then the third thing we looked at was lifestyle, so probably heard of the idea of downshifting or voluntary simplicity where people decide that they’re going to no longer kind of buy into the normal work and spend lifestyle but instead live a simpler life. And so, in our study we had 400 people 200 of whom were simplify hours and 200 of whom were mainstream Americans. And again, what we found was that those who were voluntary simplify hours were more likely to be both happy and to be living more sustainably.

Now that was actually the weakest of the three factors compared to mindfulness and values but it certainly did seem to matter. So that was essentially what we found and for us that’s a pretty hopeful message because what it suggests is there are things people can do in their own lives their lifestyles with their values with their mental practices which can conducive towards both happiness and sustainability.

And it shows that all those messages telling us that you know we have to sacrifice and give stuff up and that’s going to in order to have a sustainable world that that’s actually doesn’t appear to be true. 6.22

And that’s one of the things we found actually was that all three of those variables we were just talking about were kind of related to each other so people who were more mindful tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic. And people who were voluntarily simplifying their lives also tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic.

There’s kind of a grouping of a way of life if you will that I think kind of stems from what people think is important or what people think is not so important that can then lead us to practice our lives in certain ways to make certain choices, which have these real important consequences for people’s own personal well-being, but also for how they treat other people and the planet.

On Intrinsic Values and Nature

The intrinsic values or values for things like your own personal growth for family and for helping the world be a better place. The extrinsic materialistic values are things for money, image, status. And one of the things that we’ve learned in the last 10 or 12 years about those values, is that they stand in a dynamic opposition with each other. They’re in a kind of a tension with each other.

I’ve used the metaphor for a lot of years of a seesaw. You know that children’s playground you know you sit on it one then goes up in the other and goes down. Well the same happens with these values. The more the people focus on those intrinsic values, the less they tend to care about the materialistic values, but the more they care about materialistic values the less they care about the intrinsic values.

So one of the things that we’ve done a lot over the last few years is to do studies where we activate momentarily in people’s minds one or another set of values, and then we see what happens to the other values. So, if we get you thinking about money for example what the research shows is that you’ll care more about money related things and image related things and you will care less about helping other people. But if we get to thinking about intrinsic values, momentarily, then you’ll care about more things like the environment and helping other people, and you’ll care less about things like money and status and power.

What research suggests is that an awareness of nature, probably be one way of activating those intrinsic values of building up that part of the human value system, and getting people more and more focussed on intrinsic values, which is good in and of itself, but it’s also good because what it will do will be to suppress those more materialistic values, because of the way that the human value system is organised.

As you get people thinking about nature and being more and more aware and caring about nature that’s going to build up the intrinsic values which will then suppress the more materialistic values.

And there’s research which actually supports this. There was a study by Neta Weinstein, she exposed people to pictures of nature or pictures of manmade things human made things.

And then she measured how immersed people became in those pictures and then she measured their values afterwards and what she found was that if you gave people pictures of nature and the people became immersed in those then what happened was their intrinsic values went up and they’re materialistic values went down compared to if you showed them pictures of nature and they didn’t get immersed or if you showed them pictures of human made objects.

That makes perfect sense from the value research that we’ve done because essentially she’s kind of activated those more intrinsic values which is going to suppress the more materialistic values.

On WWF Scotland research

WWF Scotland probably 10 or 12 years ago did something called I think was called the Natural Change Project.

There were a lot of different elements to that project but essentially what they did was they found a bunch of kind of leaders in the business political artistic world who didn’t seem actually to care very much about it’s not that they dissed nature or didn’t care about nature but like their lives weren’t organised around trying to improve the environment.

That’s not what they were up to. That wasn’t their main gig. And so for over the next six months or a year or so like that they took these individuals and they did a whole variety of deep eco psychology kinds of interventions which if memory serves culminated with a dawn to dusk so low sitting time in wild nature so people would go out and they would sit down in one spot and basically stay there until it got dark by themselves for you know 12 hours or whatever.

And you know if you read the reports that were coming out of that Natural Change Project and what you found was that as people were reflecting on what all of that experience meant to them they were starting to say it was exactly what we’ve just been talking about, which was that they saw that things like money and status and didn’t really matter to them so much more what they really were more focussed on was things like relationships and things like promoting the community, and things like sustainability.

And then we can expect that if we’ve really shifted people’s values that’s going to have impacts later on in terms of specific behaviours that they engage in for a long, long time.

On Business

We’ve got to intervene with businesses. You know I think there’s just no way around that. The issue of course is that if it’s a publicly traded for profit business, at least here in the United States, that means that it has to place shareholder value and profit as its primary concern.

And as we just talked about with regard to the value conflicts, the more that you’re focussed on profit, the less you’re going to care about the environment. And so when push comes to shove, if it’s about making a choice that helps the environment, or a choice that helps make profit, as long as you’re on this publicly traded for profit corporation model, you’re going to hit that barrier.

My recent book is called hyper capitalism the modern economy, its values and how to change them. It’s a cartoon book actually, and my co-author slash illustrator is a guy named Larry Gonic. Cartoon me is the narrator.

And you know at the beginning of that chapter on business it begins with me saying you know that I used to be very dubious about changes in business you know and I’d kind of given up on that. But I think at this point

I think there’s a lot of excitement in terms of what’s happening in the business arena. There’s a lot of interesting cool models out there about alternative ways to organise businesses so that you don’t hit that barrier around profit. You know so if you look at worker co-ops if you will look at benefit corporations if you look at all kinds of other models you can start to see ways in which big organisations and product can try to focus both on profit and on things like sustainability and social justice.

On Hypercapitalism

You know I think capitalism is a particular economic system and we could talk about what it entails. But I think what’s what happened after World War Two and then especially in the late 70s and early 80s in the in North America and in Europe was there was a real shift towards a more extreme form of capitalism than was in place before you know and I think that that’s when you have globalisation coming in that’s when you have much more pushes towards privatisation you see a huge rise in consumerism at that time because you’ve got kind of modern advertising coming out view all different sorts of media especially the television etc. and then you have a lot of deregulation which occurs in many of these countries as well where government steps back and says go at it business you know how to do whatever you can do to maximise economic growth. And so this fetishism of economic growth and of buying stuff and of moneymaking and profit and all the rest really began an era where I don’t think we were in capitalism anymore. I think we had moved on to a more extreme version of capitalism that by putting all of these materialistic values at the forefront began to suppress even more and more and more values like equality values like caring about the environment et cetera.

And indeed it’s around that time when you start to see work hours go back up you start to see indices of inequality go up you really start to see lack of movement on a lot of environmental issues etc. So. So that’s how we understand hyper capitalism to a term that’s been around invented by somebody else. But it definitely seems apt to start to talk about you know what is the political economic social system that we find ourselves under in much of the world at this point.

On Neoliberalism

If you take a look at neoliberalism its fundamental tenets are tenets of deregulation, privatisation, and globalisation. and that you need to have government back off you need to have things as globalised as possible in terms of production and sales, and you again need to get the government out of the law-making business as much as possible so not regulating businesses. And you need to turn over as many government functions as possible to the private sector supposedly because the private sectors motive for profit will make it more efficient and then give everybody better products and better services.

So I think, fundamentally that’s the idea of neoliberalism.

You know again a lot of that emerges out of the out of the post-World War Two destruction and the Cold War the rise of the Chicago school of thought with regard to economics in particular. I think when you really see it hit home is when Reagan and Thatcher are in charge, early 80s that’s when you start to see neoliberalism become dominant in lots and lots of ways. And that’s when you start to then see the expansion into a hyper capitalist society.

That’s the fundamental faith of neoliberalism, well you know that if you turn things over to the invisible hand of the free market and you get government out of the way then good things will happen to me that is the fundamental faith state of neoliberalism.

But I would argue it is a faith statement.

Don’t get me wrong. Capitalism has been remarkably successful in doing what it sets out to do which is to provide a whole lot of products at relatively cheap prices for a whole lot of people and to create a great deal of wealth by its own terms.

Capitalism has been remarkably successful but if you care about equality or if you care about sustainability or if you care about authenticity and well-being, which are things capitalism doesn’t claim to care about, by the way, then you have to really question capitalism.

And again, here’s where we’re back to that fundamental value dynamic. You know the more and more you focus your lives and organisations and society and political structures around maximising wealth and consumption you’ve activated and encouraged those extrinsic values.

And as a result, you care less and suppress those intrinsic values for things like equality and sustainability and all the rest.

If we can trust all of the data we’re getting we know that things are headed down the wrong road.

And so we can either throw up our hands or we can start to develop alternative models.

Well we have to do is to start developing those alternatives and really work on them and figure them out so that we can try to prevent the bad things from happening. If that’s still possible and if it’s not possible then when the bad things do happen, we can say ‘Hey try this, not that!’

Here is the place where I think that the Nordic nations and then the Northern European nations as well you know Denmark and the Netherlands and Germany have been real leaders, have really pushed to develop these alternative models, to develop alternative practices, to try to try to make some changes at a structural levels and in lifestyle levels, to show it’s possible. And again, I would go back to where we started our conversation a while back. What’s also fascinating is that those are some of the happiest nations in the world. You know so and you can argue about why that is, but that the fact remains that these nations that are moving in these more sustainable ways also in study after study, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and the Netherlands, are oftentimes the among the happiest nations in the world.

It’s actually pretty short period of time that we’ve been under globalisation in the scope of human history, right? it’s been 40 years that’s a blip in this course of history.

When people focus on intrinsic values they focus less on materialistic values they’re happier they act in more pro social ways and they live in more ecologically sustainable ways.

Fundamentally at base the solution is actually fairly simple: How do we orient our personal lives our businesses our communities and our governments around intrinsic values rather than extrinsic values?

Because what all the evidence suggests is that if we can do that materialism will become less important people will be happier people will treat each other more nicely and people will treat the planet more nicely.

Now how to get from here to there is a different issue, but at least like with the thing that makes me optimistic is that there is a ‘there’ I can see. There is a ‘there’ that I can see and that I can understand and that makes sense theoretically from what I know as a psychologist. It has empirical data behind it. It actually is very consistent with almost every spiritual and philosophical tradition which has been around in the history of humanity. And there are people doing it now right. There are people who are living these ways now.

If any listener is out there who thinks these ideas are valid. I would encourage you to work at your city level first to get engaged in the city and try to change your city because I think that cities are where people live and so they. They have their experiences there and what happens at cities. If you can make something work at a city, it provides a model that you can say to another city or to a province or to the federal government ‘hey but it worked here, it worked here. Let’s try it at another place and try it in another place.”

Working at that local level is fundamental and our best shot.

End

Episode 6: ON BELONGING

Podcast episode 6: ON BELONGING
Introduction:

TANYA’S VOICE:
SOUND: DIEGO INTRO

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

As Naess once wrote, there seems to be no place for PLACE anymore. The things, we need appear like magic into our lives. For that convenience we often have to sacrifice connection and community. We become isolated from each other as we become more dependent on faceless corporations to provide the things we need, rather than people who produce them. Our ecological selves are being separated from the very idea of home. But somehow, the loss of place is felt, on a deeper level, and the longing for home persists.

According to Naess and deep ecology, we need to articulate what it means to belong to a place.

For example,

Number 1. As humans, we are locally and globally connected at all times. Our everyday life patterns and culture interweave with every other living thing. We need to understand this experience if we are to create profound relationships of stewardship for our own lives and the lives of future generations.

Number 2. We must not confuse a place with our own house. We do not own a place. Other humans and non-humans have the right to be part of the ecology of a place.  It is important for us to share our sense of place with others, for that a place to thrive. It does not threaten our own identity or way of life to invite others to share the spaces where we feel we belong.

Number 3. Natural experiences are not commodities to be consumed. A place is a living entity, a collection of interconnected ecosystems. A place has a value independent of the services it provides humans. But humans can be an integral and natural part of an ecosystem.

Number 4. There is Wilderness and there is Countryside. One sees Nature as separate to humankind and the other sees humankind as a Keeper of Nature. Both concepts are human constructs.

Number 5. We need to regain a sense of scale. Places and their ecosystems are being degraded by massive amounts of waste. Microscopic damage is also occurring depleting the soil and our nutrition. We must also conserve the invisible equilibrium on which all life relies.

In this episode ON BELONGING, you will hear from three people who have thought a lot about what ‘home’ means to them and what defines our relationship to a place.

First you will hear the words of Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower, tipi dwellers and makers whose way of the life can be an inspiration to all of us to live lighter. Andrew and Kayla met and fell in love in Oregon in the States, and decided to raise their family with a closer contact to the earth and Mother Nature.

You will then hear the voice of Yvette Neshi Lokotz teacher of hand drumming and making, practitioner of the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop healing, and tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation.

Please listen to this podcast with your headphones.

Andrew Blanchflower, founder of Rogue Dwellings.

Andrew’s Story

My name’s Andrew. I’ve lived in tipis since the early ‘90s. The story goes back to those days in Hulme. We would go up to Saddleworth Moors and graze on mushrooms in the autumn. I think that was my first taste of the system that was bigger than any political system that there is the system that is…I could just call it Mother Earth or Gaia right now….

SOUND: Walking through woodland

We’d come back to Hulme like this low rise six story social housing disaster, which was actually great for squats and young, single people and ….I think I’ve forgotten that time of my life my early growing up until my late teens that there was such a longing and such a missing, like, I remember that when I see people in town these days just with that confusion or that… that kind of “there’s something bigger than this, I know that there’s something bigger than this or just something… that has to be more.”

I remember having these conversations the Shenyen who was then named Martin and it would be like: “What was the most amazing life that you could dream of, that you could imagine+” For Shenyen, it was being an ordained monk in India or Tibet. For me it was living in a tipi.

SOUND: Yorkshire-moors.wav

And then it was like “Okay well can we just, do you want to just try moving towards that and see what happens?” And so that’s what happened, and then I met people that live in a tipi community in Wales of all places and my people that live in tipi he’s in Wales all year round to me was a revelation that people could still actually do that.

And I met some of those people at various festivals, at Glastonbury Festival and various healing gatherings, and they were just making a cup of tea around the fire, and I was just perceiving these people like these amazing epic characters that knew how to just boil kettle in a few minutes.

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INTRO: KAYLA’S STORY

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I love the way we met. I think it’s, it’s so romantic. He was playing the penny whistle. There was one evening he was playing in this little town called Ashland in Oregon and at night he was playing his whistle on the street. And I was out for a walk. I was actually quite heartbroken that night. And I was going on a walk with a friend, sort of crying and sharing my, my broken heart. And then we parted ways this friend and I, and I heard this whistle in the distance. It just felt so healing and soothing to me and so I decided I would close my eyes and walk to where that whistle was coming from.

And now here we are. However, many years this is later. This is like almost 20 years later and we have five children. 

On Tipi Life

ANDREW Basically we live in tipis because we can be on the ground around the fire. Like it’s a way of manifest in our elements directly. I can get wood and water, find the spring or a creek or something. There’s like two basics taken care of as far as elements.

KAYLA At the moment everyone’s busy in the shop. All the kids are in there making things; we’re making shoes for the trip, and making backpacks, a travelling lodge and a bag for the travelling lodge, and Ayla is making some gifts. She wants to bring these baby carriers to give to some kids that she knows over there. Yeah. everyone’s really busy using the sewing machines right now and making things for the journey and that’s a lot of fun.

SOUND: 4. WHITE THROATED SPARROW.m4a

KAYLA So we have five children. All of our children were born to living in the tipi.

That’s sort of one of the things that I kind of captivated me about Andy was that he, he lived in a tipi and he had come from a tipi community in Wales, and he knew how to make them, and how, how to live in them in a way that wasn’t like roughing it or camping but quite luxuriously.

The Blanchflower Family

And so all of our children were born to the tipi. Not all of them were born in it. Some were born outside of the tipi or in water, or our firstborn was born in a birth centre. It was a beautiful birth and it was that birth that then set up the rest for us to be pretty strong about just having him and I be there for the births.

So, we had a midwife for our first child and she was a wonderful woman. She’s dear in my heart. I have sought counsel with her throughout all the rest of our children, but not as a regular midwife and she did not attend any more births.

I’m grateful for her and it really helped me get in touch with the wisdom in my bones of just how to how to birth with a lot of love with whatever family was around.

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On  Tipi Village, from Wales to Oregon

KAYLA It was when we were pregnant with our second child that we wanted to just be somewhere wild where we could feel really comfortable and at home and so we decided to just go to those mountains in the distance, and we set up our lodge, and I don’t know a little while after we set it up maybe some days or so. someone came down and it turned out they were the title holders.

But they loved the Tipi. We made them tea which is what we’ll often do when surprise visitors come. And you know let the fire do its magic on them like it does. They came down and they had tea and they welcomed us and said that they you know they had access to thousands of acres. They opened it up to us. I mean that the short version.

And that’s where the valley the tipi Valley model where Andy came from in Wales had such a strong influence in this little place in Oregon which we ended up calling tipi village.

It’s amazing that those stories, those people, those events, in Wales they’re all of those how far they travelled and how they’re like seeds that floated over and just grew in this other place, and I guess stories do that. They kind of travel like that.

People would come and visit and find out if they wanted to stay for a while or not. It was a pretty organic process because you know, if if people were up for it, fetching wood and water and cooking on a fire, and living with the elements, and dealing with mould and rodents, and you know, rain dripping in and all of these things that have to be dealt with– then they would, you know, they’d make themselves a tipi and rise to it and love it —and

other people would find you know quickly or not so quickly that it wasn’t for them, and so there was no need for any, you know, egos to get involved to say you can be here. You can’t be here. The earth did the sorting out. I guess, maybe.

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ANDREW Tipi Valley in Wales they always had that big lodge that was always open, and it brings so much perspective. If we want new stories new narratives, we can look back to stories that 5000 years old what’s so common in a lot of those folk tales, is the answer to the problem comes from the periphery. It doesn’t come from where we’re looking at the problem. Like it comes a spirit of the lake or an old woman in the roots of the tree or…. But we have to be open to that we have to be at that point. Maybe it’s not going to be until we’re at that point of desperation that we will be open to that and hear it.

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On what is home?

Fireplace and FIRE CRACKLING.m4a

Sewing in the workshop tent

KAYLA [00:10:58] What does home mean? These are thinking about these things are really they’re meaningful to me, and we talk about them often in our home. It’s been quite a thread for us because of I guess we kind of considered ourselves as ‘displaced’ which is interesting to say because Andy isn’t from the west of Turtle Island but we made our family there, all the kids were born there this whole village from out of the ground and blossomed there, other children in the community were born there.

For many years we all moved together seasonally. There was a summer grounds and winter grounds and so we’re very connected with a place there.

We moved within a range, a valley, and a mountain range and so we had high elevation camp and we had a low elevation camp.

We often hear that the only place where that’s normal is where you’re at like the Nordic regions is like that that kind of stuff is more widely accepted and known in here. It is a little bit. I mean sometimes we’re in places where we might be a bit more of the freak show. We don’t find so many but enough that we aren’t alone really. Right now, all winter we’ve been living on this beautiful ridge and with three other families.

I mean a community doesn’t need to be a huge amount of people, there’s enough people here where we can bounce off each other and there’s enough, you know, diversity be amongst the different skills between the grown-ups that the kids can like, you know, they go to what’s inspiring for them for input and there’s other children here and they have this wide open wild space to just be in and learn about together.

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On Stories

KAYLA Because I think there is some great power to us knowing the stories of a landscape and feeling how our stories are woven into those stories and then we know our place because we know the land so I feel like home. Place is relevant in talking about home, but I don’t think it’s exclusive to place and I think it could be at least here in the United States, there’s that consciousness of its like its ‘settler colonialism’ that really claims a place and says this is mine.

ANDREW Stories really intimate and woven in with place, like they come from a place and they emerge out of the ground. As far as a new narrative is becoming apparent that a monolithic… a single narrative isn’t really the way forward. It seems like in order to find unity we’re having to kind of decentralise. Someone a few years ago on a radio show was talking about that the only thing that unites us is our uniqueness. Like the thing that unites us does our uniqueness. We’re all different. So the ability to adapt. We’re forgetting how to adapt.

People are forgetting how to write down on paper, through the seduction of convenience, people forget how to feel a bit uncomfortable, and just rise to the occasion. I don’t know what there is to do other than just try and be resilient and adapt.

ANDREW That brings it back to that relationship with place being something more dimensional than mere economics. It is just one single level or dimension of how a holistic relationship to ‘place’ can be.

Rogue Dwelling Tipi in snow

KAYLA I think at that time I might have been very much one to say that home in place were more closely related but then as Tipi village, I mean the story as tragic, and it’s beautiful and it was you know, the land titles shifted hands and that’s a long story.

It was enough for us that push was enough, and we got a school bus real quick and made a quick conversion and got on the road and for the first year I would say we travelled around just traumatized and gutted like we had lost everything that, that meant something to us like the birthplace of our children, and we had such a vision woven in with that place, of a future of a way forward that we were so dedicated to and believed so firmly in.

Tending the land, tending wild plants, returning seasonally, watching it grow, living lightly with a place, as a people, as a community. So then that’s when I think the journey of being separated from place but still maintaining home, began for me personally.

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On Standing Rock

KAYLA: And then we kind of heard that call to go to Standing Rock. Well not kind of. It came through really strong. That’s another story. I mean it was quite an incredible direction for us to head in, after having gone through the seven years of tipi village, and being able to be in a bus, with a workshop that made tipis, and we can just pull up to Standing Rock and make shelter and have our home with us. And I think that’s where maybe the journey began to shift for me in realising that home is much bigger than a place because we got there, and it felt like we met our people. I met our people.

And that our people live all around the world, like people were there from so many places, but there was such this common thread that united us. And we kept saying in so many ways it was like we had gone home.

It had such a profound impact on our lives. We were there for a year. It was the land of the paradox for me just the richest place I’ve been.

The spiritual richness was so potent that fire was burning so strong and that’s what kept us there for that long and the poverty and pain that’s there is equally as strong. It’s just the poorest and richest place. And I guess I am speaking beyond our time in camp at Standing Rock because we stayed on further with relatives that we met who live on the various reservations in the Dakotas and lived with them after the camps were closed down in February. We continued on, pitched our lodge with some other people who live between the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Rosebud reservation

On Nature and healing

ANDREW This thing that they pejoratively called the environment as if it’s an issue as if it’s something that needs to be taken care of as if it isn’t the whole of everything. All of life runs through this about out of proportion, I think.

KAYLA We’re all very present. We don’t have anywhere else to be except right at home and with each other. We’d like to say that sometimes it’s kind of like we have seven pairs of eyes were like this one body with all these eyes and all these noses and all these ears just kind of moving through space and time together and and so it feels like we’re that much more aware if we’re in it together taking care of each other paying attention to each other’s bodies. But we heat water on the fire. We have a washtub. That’s how we have baths. The healing journey requires getting sick together.

We’re blessed to have each other to have the family. I send a bit of that good feeling out to those who aren’t as fortunate to have a family container to hold them through their challenging times.

I feel humbled and blessed that we do have that with each other and we have all the time we’re so rich with time so there’s just no hurry or there’s no loss of job money. Getting ill, it has information in there of how to be live even better, how to be more activated in ourselves, maybe.

Our bodies are maps.

On being open

KAYLA With the way we move with in the bus and where we’ve been travelling across the country. It’s sort of been a requirement that we be very open. I mean I guess we could do it in a closed way but I just that’s just not the way we do it. We move really slowly and in a very open way always receiving whatever guests we meet. It’s it’s so curious to me the way a journey can unfold when we go with such open minds and heart.

Especially with technology these days we could really plan our route and plan where we stay and close our reality down so much with all this planning and being so destination bound, and then I think we miss out so much, and so, by being so open, we’re always in contact with so many different kinds of people, which I think grows in our kids a kind of adaptability and some resiliency. and a way to navigate different cultural contexts.

Cosy at home

ANDREW Well the way we’ve done Chai is to serve it straight out of the bus because we have a 1988 Chevy Bluebird school bus like classic American school bus, and that’s what we travel, we carry our whole trip in that which is a tipi and a 28 foot seven-sided tensile tent shop.

So we might just be pulled over in a rest area or in a town and we’ll put a sign up saying “Now serving organic Chai” on the sign is to say. Donations welcome and then we thought it has a poor aesthetic, so we just even scrubbed that off, and people still managed to make donations, and sometimes… sometimes someone wouldn’t leave anything, sometimes… most people leave a couple three dollars to occasionally someone’s left one hundred dollars or bunches of kale or someone’s brought us some venison or Buffalo or whatever.

Hearth living

We pull up in the town and the person who’s got TB poles on the roof is painted brown and it’s got water protective signs on the side and people are curious and often there’s a person in a uniform who’s bold enough to come and talk to us and you know we’ll charm them but. we have to invite everyone in for a cup of tea because if we don’t, if we’re not open, then we’re dangerous and we’re suspicious because we are so different.

And it is curious that there is a longing. People come in and they just smell it. And I don’t know what we smell like anymore, like mostly we just smell like wood smoke, I think, you know we’ll be cooking in there and there was a smell of chai and, time and time again, there’s just that longing for trust.

I think it’s it’s not like there’s no fear there anymore it’s more like a willingness to engage with that fear and maybe that’s what we have to do in order to stop plundering our ecology our environment is just give over and relax and know that there is enough abundance in the world.

Playing and learning skills

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Everyday life is our home

KAYLA There’s these threads we have that we bring through wherever we go; the tipi and the fire and all the dailies that are required to keep that functioning and I think those are like it’s kind of the main spokes of the basket. That kind of give it some structure, and some kind of that’s their identity maybe? Maybe it’s maybe it’s like this is what we we are as a family is is what we do. We have our bus and our lodge, and we move seasonally and we don’t claim any one spot but we like to meet lots of people, and love places as we go if it’s planting trees or building labyrinths or developing springs, at different places, or transplanting things, or gathering plant medicines or praying, building sweat lodges.

There’s so there’s so many ways that we engage with the places that we go and love them where we go and then and then we are moving on. But I have to say there is some heartache and sadness about…it’s almost like we have to keep moving because of the way the system is set up.

I’m not entirely like anti…staying in one spot and I don’t. I’m not against that. It’s just not viable unless we do it in this very entitled way. This land ownership thing but tending to a place and loving a place and getting to know the stories of a place and weaving into it, I think that’s profound.I think this is crucial really for a sense of well-being, and for our knowing our own individual place and all of creation.

Even when we look at hunter and gatherer cultures, I don’t think they that people have ever just wandered around that there’s been a purpose. If it’s going for. A certain food that is ready in a certain place with the certain time of year.

When the salmon run or when the maple syrup is flowing, the wild rice is ready.

ANDREW This time last year we were in New Hampshire and we were tapping maple trees where we made 15 gallons of maple syrup and we still have some leftover. It’s that way of just diversifying. From my experience of travelling with indigenous peoples, and indigenous cultures it’s like there’s a resilience woven into those kinds of cultures.

Looking back to the dictionary definition of what Indigenous means, basically emergent from place. If I can emerge from a place like the elements that make my body, that way is to be alive. If I can honour that as much as possible as part of a… like everything else in creation. I am a strand in a multi-dimensional shimmering tapestry of life that is all my relation, which means all my relationships.

Kayla

So, it’s like we have all these relationships not just the physical well I can see and hear and feel and touch around me. But things that make up what is me they the things within me and without me. How does that shimmer in the way that it’s supposed to in the way that all the rest of creation has the potential to do — if I can perceive it like that?

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KAYLA There’s intention and purpose. It’s not kind of a bumbling about so working with what we have, it’s been beautiful, there’s people here who take care of this place. They said come and be here for the winter. And so we have, we’ve arrived. We’ve been here as fully as we can. This is art we’ve loved this place. And it’s been amazing. Arriving in the fall when it was all going to sleep. And now being here in the spring in this completely new landscape that we don’t know a lot of these plants and trees and they’re all waking up and coming alive and surprising us at every turn. We had no idea. We were surrounded by trees that were going to give off so much colour in the spring. It’s been beautiful to get to know a new place.

It’s been quite an epic and beautiful journey. A lot of it just feeling like it’s a journey of coming more whole, and a lot of weaving.

I think we weave so beautifully together, Andy and I.

Living light means living in harmony with nature, with the least negative impact

END

SOUND BRIDGE TO NESHI LOKOTZ VOICE & NESHI 24m. DRUM MEDITATION.mp3

NESHI:
In your imagination
Imagine going to a place of nature
It’s so beautiful there
This is your special place
A place that you know so well
That you may have been many times
Could be in yur back yard
It could be out in a park
By a lake the ocean and the mountains
Your special place….

—————————————————————————-

NESHI INTRO

Bosho, that’s hello in Potawatomi. My name is Yvette Neshi Lokotz, and I am from Turtle Island, the United States, and I am a Native American woman.

I would like to introduce myself in the old way. You always want to know who your people are, see if you’re related.

SOUND: NeshiDrumming_6/4/19_2.mp3

(Introduces in Potawatomi language)

(Nesh nabe nos wen, Bneshikwe. Nshe dodem tthigwe. Dwagen, Tomah Wiscconsin. Nshe mesho, Skama-ben. My Gaga, Ho Chunk, Spreading Wing. Nshe nos, Kabance-ben. Nshe no ye nan, SheweKwe.

My name is Bneshi-kwe, which means bird woman, , my clan is Thunder. I live in Tomah, Wisconsin. My grandfather, Misho, Shkama-ben. My grandfather’s name was Shkama-ben that he has walked on; He’s passed away. And his native name, his Indian name, meant new chief. My grandmother who is Ho Chunk, I don’t know how to pronounce her Ho Chunk name but it meant ‘Spreading Wing.’

And my father, Kabance-ben means that he passed away, the ben part, but Kabance means to Walk On Earth. And it’s really about the imprint of the moccasin in the soil on Grandmother Earth.

And my mother who is still living. She-We-Kwe means ‘Leading Elk’. And so that is how we would normally introduce ourselves so they have an idea of how to address you. It’s all about who is connected to you. It’s much more personal.

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Neshi Lokotz Sacred Hoop Drum Maker and CEO of Star Nations, and Star Nations Radio

NESHI INTRO CONTINUED

I’m an enrolled member tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation, the Prairie Band. There are nine bands of the Potawatomi Nation. When we were forced onto reservations is when we kind of got split up that way. And that’s on my mother’s side. Her father, my grandfather. Skama-ben, he was he was the Potawatomi.

We follow the patriarchal line, and this has more to do with the colonization. We’re enrolled underneath my grandfather’s who was an original lottee number when he went to the reservation.

My grandmother on my mother’s side is Ho Chunk. We might classify her as an activist. She was she was one of those people who would be a part of changing the norm. And so she was a very strong woman. My grandmother on my mother’s side.

Ho Chunk has been in Wisconsin for hundreds and hundreds of years. The Potawatomi started out on the East Coast and migrated west.

On my dad’s side, he was a Mexican Indian. Yaqui is his nation. Where he is from would have been around the southern border between Texas and northern Mexico. The Yaqui nation actually is on both sides of a border now. (laughter) Before there was a border.

I also have some French Canadian as well intermarried into the Potawatomi Nation and also the whole nation as well.

That is the connection to Turtle Island.

Illustration of the Turtle Island Creation story by Jane Schnetlage

 

On Turtle Island

Turtle Island is really comes from an indigenous creation story. What we’re talking about is the United States. And the story goes the creation story goes is that the creator created man.

And that what happened was that

there was this this rain. It was a deluge. And there wasn’t any land to speak of. And so animals and we’re trying to survive. The animals would volunteer to dive all the way down to bring up soil to create to create an island. The turtle volunteered to carry the soil on its back. so that we could all survive.

It was the muskrat that was able to dive all the way down, and grab handfuls of soil to bring it up. And so that is how Turtle Island got to be. And how everybody got to survive and to thrive, is because they all worked together. And it was the turtle who volunteered to carry us on its back. So, we have a very strong connection to turtle. Turtle medicine. And it means that you’re very grounded and connected to grandmother earth, and you also have a way to protect yourself too.

On a multicultural background

Growing up in the household that I did, there was one way to communicate there, and experience life there, and then I would go to my grandparents’ house, and that was another layer of a way to communicate, because there are certain ways like any other culture, right? You don’t look an elder in the eye. You don’t keep that constant eye contact, it’s disrespectful. You’re not asking a million questions. You know and those kinds of things. And so then when you’d go to school it’s the complete reverse. It’s like if you don’t have eye contact. It’s disrespectful. If you’re not asking questions you’re not interested. (laughter) On occasion I would get into trouble. (laughter)

Neshi wearing traditional Medicine Dress

On Standing Rock

Standing Rock, literally it woke up the world. It shook the world. And so much came out of that both positive and negative. But really it brought the world together in that one tiny little space, they had over. 500. Indigenous flags flying. And people from all over the world came. Right. And the premise was to do this in peace and then the ceremony. And for the most part, that that was true. There are some things that occurred that you know.

The aftermath. But we all learned a whole lot from it. And. It really did ignite the passion and to for people to use their voice in their own backyards. Right. So, there’s a lot of things that have come out from this and the Sami came not once I think they were there like, three or four times different times over that.

It’s also a free press and they we’re really riding on the edge of an extinction of the free press. Really. We’ve been dealing with the US government for generations and we’ve survived we’ve survived them time and time and time again. Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t have people like Leonard Peltier still in prison. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a high proportion of numbers of Indigenous people in the prisons. But we’ve survived this government for a long, long time. A long time.

And so that that is why Standing Rock was so important because it was a renaissance that was reigniting, reclaiming our power as indigenous people.

Now many people would say that we don’t or that we don’t have much power. But Standing Rock really showed us that yes we do. And a very it turned out in a very quiet voice. And it was the youth that really brought it to the forefront and they turned to the elders that still knew the ceremonies that still knew how to call in spirit and have spirit present during that whole thing.

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Neshi On Spirit Guides

So many people non-native people non-Indigenous people to Turtle Island are still very, very interested in Native American or the indigenous culture. To be more specific in the spirituality. I encourage them to really search out who their people are.

But we’re carrying our ancestors’ wisdom and also their trauma in our DNA and our blood and in our bones. And so, we can make that connection through our ancestors. You don’t have to make that connection through my ancestry.

The culture I grew up in, we talked about spirit all the time, it wasn’t anything new, but coming into what’s been known as the new age world, realising that all these people had Native American guides. And I’m asking why don’t I have Native American guides? Because I don’t. So how come I don’t I have Chief Red Cloud as my spirit guide? And it’s like this because you call them ancestors. It’s like it’s like –oh OK so your light bulb went on.

But why do so many non-native people non-Indigenous people have Native American guides? Because they’re being taught or given opportunities to remember their connection to Grandmother Earth.

And so with indigenous people, our belief is really about our connection, that we have this very loving and strong connection to Grandmother Earth. Protecting sacred sites. Cleaning up the water. Picking up your own trash for goodness sake. Those kinds of things, right, is a calling on your spirit guides to help you to rekindle or reconnect to Grandmother Earth because it’s hard wired in us to like it’s in us humans. To protect what we love. And if we can remember how much we love the Earth Mother Earth grandmother guy up we’re going to protect her.

Being indigenous to this continent and growing up the way that I did. OK. There’s some things that I took for granted. In my culture, that I didn’t realise until I was a young adult…. is that when you grow up in the culture, the spiritual connection that we have to the earth, it’s just your life, it’s your way of being.

You don’t question why we do ceremony. and call in the four directions, why we address Grandmother Earth and grandfather sky. because everything goes back to grandmother earth. Our culture is based on our connection to her. It’s your life, it’s your lifestyle already.

There’s many of us who do keep that connection and nurture it because like any other relationship you’d have to pay attention to it. And so sometimes they think that we take for granted that kind of connection. It’s when someone else outs that’s not indigenous, they’re looking in to this life, they see this connection and they yearn for belonging.

And so I think that’s where you get a lot of people wanting to have the same kind of connection but really. Really trying their best to be able to do that. And sometimes it takes on a different a whole different role.

In order to have to retain and to foster to nurture that relationship to Grandmother Earth you have to practice it every day that becomes your lifestyle. That is your life. And so it’s a way of being and it’s a way of walking this earth is to be able to remember your connection to her and it becomes your lifestyle you live it every single day.

Yvette Neshi Lokotz

On cultural misapproproation

Cultural misappropriation basically, is a put a nice way of saying stealing. The using of another culture when it’s feeding your ego more than your soul then I think that you have to step back and say “What did I just steal?”

When you are an indigenous person and you’ve lived that life and you have people who are non-Indigenous coming into your home basically. you know your community, they feel like they can use it, without any of the training, without any explanation, without the foundational information. It’s for their ego more than it is for their soul.

And so that’s my two cents on cultural misappropriation is that many times it’s it’s being a part of themselves that is not a part of their spirituality. I think it is but it’s really feeding their ego. Those are the name droppers. They’re keen on the word Chief you know.

And I tell you there are some Native Americans some indigenous people who get very upset with this. They’re very upset because they you know I’ve heard it said that they’ve taken everything else and now they want to take our souls too. They want to take our Spirit.

On terminology and names

What do we call ourselves…. right. I agree it is important. Whether we call ourselves cells Native American or indigenous are First Nation is really for the benefit of the person that we’re speaking to that is non-native.

And it’s a misnomer. Let’s take the term Native American Native American really is what I would call a misnomer. OK. It has become antiquated because anybody who is born in the United States could could say that they’re Native American. So it kind of washes out the first people who were on this continent.

And so what, what do we ended up calling ourselves when we have multiple generations who have now resided in the United States. They came from a different continent. And so there is this term called colonisers and that we are being another thing being usurped from us. But. And. I in my world in actuality. The term Native American Doesn’t really describe the indigenous people here on Turtle Island, it really doesn’t describe, in truth the original people here. And especially not American Indian. (laughter) Because this this this man who said he found this new world we’re already here. And he was lost. He thought he was in the East Indies. That’s how we got the term Indian. That has nothing to do with the original people who were already here.

Now Canada has started a movement and calling natives from Canada Indigenous people from Canada started using the words indigenous. And also First Nation. Which I think is a bit closer to accurately describing people who were here originally on this. But you know what I tell you.

We slide back and forth between depending on who we’re talking to.
And I’ve also found that it’s generational.

Because my mother who just turned 100 on Saturday, she still uses the terms American Indian or Indian and also uses Native American. And no matter no matter how many times I will ask her, are referring to East Indian or indigenous people. And so, she’ll look give me this look and she says I’m referring to our people! (Laughter)

She was part of the mission school generation. And most non-indigenous people don’t realize that that’s still occurring that children are still being taken from their homes and placed in boarding schools to create a person who is more.

Non-native non-indigenous. Still happening in this century. Some things never change, I suppose.

Yvette Neshi Lokotz

 

You know, I think language in itself falls short of really truly describing the emotions that are underlying, because even when we use the word ‘indigenous’ we have to qualify it indigenous to what continent. because there are many people who are Indigenous, but indigenous to their own part of grandmother earth right?

And so I think we still have to qualify what part of Grandmother Earth are we referring to when we’re talking about indigenous people.

Indigenous. It’s a start.

In the Indigenous world we there is a belief that our culture is connected to our language. And so, when you lose the language you lose your culture and so much has already been lost. And so there has been a many and about two decades worth of a renaissance where many people are learning their indigenous language.

On home

Our ancestors survived. Survive so that we could be here. They went through so much for us to be here to live these lives. They went through genocide. They went through colonization. They did what they had to do to survive, so that we could be here. It makes us stronger. For what they did for us now when we talk about where’s our home.

And the thing is is that we have to be clear in. When we use the term ancestor when I’m using it I’m talking about and referring to them as this spirituality the spirit of not the physical the spiritual. Not the physical place. No.

When we’re talking about our connection to the earth. We belong to her not the other way around. Literally our bodies come from her. And our bodies returned to her. When our spirit is released.

Our complete physicality. Is connected to her are brainwaves or connected to her.

She literally gives us Life.

On ceremony

Ceremony and ritual touches that part of our brain. We recognize it. Oh something important is happening here.

It’s about making that connection, to nature – or to all that is really. The creator, all the planets, the sun, the moon, the four directions, to all the animals, to all bodies of water, to all things green, to those who fly to those who swim to those who crawl, all of creation. The entire universe.

So when you do those kind of ceremonies, we are all watching and listening and we are also feeling our connection to each other and to the earth, and to all of creation and that we’re reminded that that we are a member, of nature. That we’re not separate from it or separate from each other.

And so when you’re looking at nature. And the ecosystem that we’re all a part of. It’s a very large body that we call Earth.

You can’t take one piece out and take a look at it and say this is this is the only thing that we’re going to be concerned about. There’s something from an indigenous point of view is that all of Grandmother Earth is sacred. All of it is not just one aspect over here one aspect over there but the whole. Is sacred. And that we have a commitment to her. To take care of her. That’s why we call her grandmother. (laughter) is that we have a commitment to take care of her.

And so if we can look at her as a whole being rather than bits and pieces of, that we can start to remember our connection to her. And that we actually see ourselves as a whole being rather than bits and pieces.

You know there’s another thing is that we don’t we don’t own her. If she decided that she was done with the human race done with a two legged it would be so easy for her to shake us off her body.

We have such a loving and complicated relationship with her. And she literally we are one of her children. So how does how does a parent how does a parent corrector. Explain to the child why they can’t do this you can’t do that or why they should do something.

How does a parent do that?

Shows them consequences. And I think we’re being shown consequences. And so, for those of us that are awake and we see sense or feel it is to be able to use our voices in some way. To say you know let’s listen to this. Let’s go out and actually pick up some trash. Take your children with you to pick up the trash. Yes. Yes. No, it doesn’t. You know some people think that it’s so overwhelming. What can I do? You know I’m not going to affect anything but when everything that we do affects someone else. We’re so interconnected.

Start locally, start in your own backyard. What are you doing to effect your own home. What are you doing? And so you know and if you feel like that’s the extent that you can help. Well then that’s fine that’s good at least you’re doing something. There’s others that will take on a more regional or national or international… Because they’re meant to.

How are we planting our garden, how are we tending it? We live in a world of duality. When you see. The really negative and the very low vibrational side of it. What’s the opposite? Because there is an opposite. So where is that? Where is that? And go there put your energy in there.

With gratitude

I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated this opportunity to be with you and to express, my belief my heart. We’re all a part of the same universe.

And so thank you. In Potawatomi It is Kttche Megwech, which is a very large thank you and Igwien, Igwien is a more formal thank you that we reserve for elders and for special occasions. And so I want to tell you Igwien.

END

CREDITS 

TANYA’S VOICE:

SOUND: Tanya’s Garden in Sweden the Summer

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON BELONGING. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife production.

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast

We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

You can contact Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower via their website roguedwellings.com

Yvette Neshi Lokotz is the CEO of Star Nations, a multi-media company with a global community. Please see starnations.org.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast.

Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

 

 

Episode 5: ON HAPPINESS, Transcript

 

Introduction:

DIEGO INTRO SOUND: ICE SOUNDS

Tanya’s Voice:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

According to Naess’s interpretation of Spinoza, Happiness is best realised through living life to the full out “in the world”. Other philosophies suggest a life of contemplation is the path to enlightenment, the ultimate happiness. In a way it is this struggle to balance our inner values and desires with our external actions and reactions that makes the search for Happiness, an experiential process rather than a destination.

You will now hear from two guests who have dedicated their careers to understanding the relationship of values to our behaviour, and how our sense of wellbeing has a direct impact the wider world around us.

First, you will hear from Tim Kasser, currently a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, USA. He has performed extensive research on materialism, values, well-being, and environmental sustainability, among other topics. In 2018, he collaborated with the cartoonist Larry Gonick to create a graphic book, HyperCapitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them.

Then you will hear Dr. Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan & Gross National Happiness Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies.

Gross National Happiness offers a framework of criteria for policymaking and all kinds of human activity, including that of companies and corporations.

 

DIEGO SOUND BRIDGE
2 GUESTS VOICES:

TIM KASSER: 22.49 mins total 

TIM INTRO

So, my name is Tim Kasser. I’m Professor of Psychology at Knox College which is in Galesburg Illinois in the United States. And I’ve been studying people’s values and goals and how they relate to well-being and ecological damage and other kinds of things for about 30 years now.

Professor Tim Kasser

At the time that I started to move into the ecological work, I had already been doing a lot of work on people’s values and goals and how they related to their own personal well-being, as well as to some social outcomes. And then a guy named Kirk Brown actually approached me and said “Well what about ecological stuff?”

And so we did a study together right around the year 2000 actually where we began to look at how people’s values and goals related to ecological outcomes, so people’s ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours. That really sparked my interest and so I started to do more work in that realm.

From a psychology’s perspective there’s all this focus on well-being but pretty much the focus is on how happy is this person, how not depressed is that person, how you know satisfied with life is this person.

But there’s relatively little comparatively about well-being involves living well in a way that doesn’t damage other people’s opportunity to live well and doesn’t damage other species opportunities to live well and doesn’t damage future generations opportunities to live well.

If we really want to understand well-being, we have to get beyond I guess what you would call the user there or what the psychologist would talk about with regard to personal well-being. And we really need to focus on social and psychological well-being as well. 1.51

Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them

One of the major things that you would hear from politicians and others was that we can’t focus too much on the environment because that will decrease people’s well-being because they’ll have to give up X and give up y and give up Z.

And so, what we really tried to do, and we were I think the first people to do was to set out to test that idea. So, is it the case that psychological well-being and ecological well-being are incompatible, or might they actually be compatible?

And so in two studies we measured people’s personal well-being so their life satisfaction their experience of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. And then we also measured their ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours and what we found was that actually in both samples personal and ecological well-being were positively correlated. That is, happier people tended to also be living more ecologically sustainable lifestyles.

And I’d say a little bit more about that finding from the Brown Kasser study, but I want to note that two years ago I did a summary of the literature on that, and it turns out that that finding that personal well-being and ecological well-being are positively associated has now been replicated about 15 or 20 times in other samples, cross culturally, with lots of different kinds of measures of well-being, with lots of different ways of measuring environmental behaviour as well.

So, it does seem to be a rather robust relationship that Kirk and I discovered back in 2000.

The other thing that Kirk and I were interested in is what is it that allows personal and ecological well-being to be positively correlated.

What were the psychological mechanisms, if you will, which allow those two things to go in concert with each other.

We looked at three different possibilities all of which had some data to support them. So the first one which was the thing I’d been studying for quite a while was people’s values and what we found was that part of why people who are happy are also living more sustainably is that they focus on values for their own personal growth and their own connection to other people and helping the world.

And they focus less on values like making a lot of money having a lot of possessions having the right image being popular. All those values and encouraged by consumer capitalism. So, one of the reasons that people can be both happy and sustainable is if their values orient them in a certain way.

The natural outcome of a focus on those intrinsic value is we call them instead of the materialistic values is to be happy in the moment, is to live more sustainably.

On Mindfulness

A variable that Kirk had been studying for some time, which is called mindfulness. And so, Kirk was one of the early people in psychology to really look at mindfulness, which is the ability to be with one’s thoughts in the moment in a non-judgemental way.

And so again what we found was that people who were more mindful were also living more sustainably and happier at the same time. So, there’s something about mindfulness which conduces towards both of those kinds of wellbeing outcomes.

Hyper Captialism book illustration

On Lifestyle

And then the third thing we looked at was lifestyle, so probably heard of the idea of downshifting or voluntary simplicity where people decide that they’re going to no longer kind of buy into the normal work and spend lifestyle but instead live a simpler life. And so, in our study we had 400 people 200 of whom were simplify hours and 200 of whom were mainstream Americans. And again, what we found was that those who were voluntary simplify hours were more likely to be both happy and to be living more sustainably.

Now that was actually the weakest of the three factors compared to mindfulness and values but it certainly did seem to matter. So that was essentially what we found and for us that’s a pretty hopeful message because what it suggests is there are things people can do in their own lives their lifestyles with their values with their mental practices which can conducive towards both happiness and sustainability.

And it shows that all those messages telling us that you know we have to sacrifice and give stuff up and that’s going to in order to have a sustainable world that that’s actually doesn’t appear to be true. 6.22

And that’s one of the things we found actually was that all three of those variables we were just talking about were kind of related to each other so people who were more mindful tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic. And people who were voluntarily simplifying their lives also tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic.

There’s kind of a grouping of a way of life if you will that I think kind of stems from what people think is important or what people think is not so important that can then lead us to practice our lives in certain ways to make certain choices, which have these real important consequences for people’s own personal well-being, but also for how they treat other people and the planet.

On Intrinsic Values and Nature

The intrinsic values or values for things like your own personal growth for family and for helping the world be a better place. The extrinsic materialistic values are things for money, image, status. And one of the things that we’ve learned in the last 10 or 12 years about those values, is that they stand in a dynamic opposition with each other. They’re in a kind of a tension with each other.

I’ve used the metaphor for a lot of years of a seesaw. You know that children’s playground you know you sit on it one then goes up in the other and goes down. Well the same happens with these values. The more the people focus on those intrinsic values, the less they tend to care about the materialistic values, but the more they care about materialistic values the less they care about the intrinsic values.

So one of the things that we’ve done a lot over the last few years is to do studies where we activate momentarily in people’s minds one or another set of values, and then we see what happens to the other values. So, if we get you thinking about money for example what the research shows is that you’ll care more about money related things and image related things and you will care less about helping other people. But if we get to thinking about intrinsic values, momentarily, then you’ll care about more things like the environment and helping other people, and you’ll care less about things like money and status and power.

What research suggests is that an awareness of nature, probably be one way of activating those intrinsic values of building up that part of the human value system, and getting people more and more focussed on intrinsic values, which is good in and of itself, but it’s also good because what it will do will be to suppress those more materialistic values, because of the way that the human value system is organised.

As you get people thinking about nature and being more and more aware and caring about nature that’s going to build up the intrinsic values which will then suppress the more materialistic values.

And there’s research which actually supports this. There was a study by Neta Weinstein, she exposed people to pictures of nature or pictures of manmade things human made things.

And then she measured how immersed people became in those pictures and then she measured their values afterwards and what she found was that if you gave people pictures of nature and the people became immersed in those then what happened was their intrinsic values went up and they’re materialistic values went down compared to if you showed them pictures of nature and they didn’t get immersed or if you showed them pictures of human made objects.

That makes perfect sense from the value research that we’ve done because essentially she’s kind of activated those more intrinsic values which is going to suppress the more materialistic values.

On WWF Scotland research

WWF Scotland probably 10 or 12 years ago did something called I think was called the Natural Change Project.

There were a lot of different elements to that project but essentially what they did was they found a bunch of kind of leaders in the business political artistic world who didn’t seem actually to care very much about it’s not that they dissed nature or didn’t care about nature but like their lives weren’t organised around trying to improve the environment.

That’s not what they were up to. That wasn’t their main gig. And so for over the next six months or a year or so like that they took these individuals and they did a whole variety of deep eco psychology kinds of interventions which if memory serves culminated with a dawn to dusk so low sitting time in wild nature so people would go out and they would sit down in one spot and basically stay there until it got dark by themselves for you know 12 hours or whatever.

And you know if you read the reports that were coming out of that Natural Change Project and what you found was that as people were reflecting on what all of that experience meant to them they were starting to say it was exactly what we’ve just been talking about, which was that they saw that things like money and status and didn’t really matter to them so much more what they really were more focussed on was things like relationships and things like promoting the community, and things like sustainability.

And then we can expect that if we’ve really shifted people’s values that’s going to have impacts later on in terms of specific behaviours that they engage in for a long, long time.

On Business

We’ve got to intervene with businesses. You know I think there’s just no way around that. The issue of course is that if it’s a publicly traded for profit business, at least here in the United States, that means that it has to place shareholder value and profit as its primary concern.

And as we just talked about with regard to the value conflicts, the more that you’re focussed on profit, the less you’re going to care about the environment. And so when push comes to shove, if it’s about making a choice that helps the environment, or a choice that helps make profit, as long as you’re on this publicly traded for profit corporation model, you’re going to hit that barrier.

My recent book is called hyper capitalism the modern economy, its values and how to change them. It’s a cartoon book actually, and my co-author slash illustrator is a guy named Larry Gonic. Cartoon me is the narrator.

And you know at the beginning of that chapter on business it begins with me saying you know that I used to be very dubious about changes in business you know and I’d kind of given up on that. But I think at this point

I think there’s a lot of excitement in terms of what’s happening in the business arena. There’s a lot of interesting cool models out there about alternative ways to organise businesses so that you don’t hit that barrier around profit. You know so if you look at worker co-ops if you will look at benefit corporations if you look at all kinds of other models you can start to see ways in which big organisations and product can try to focus both on profit and on things like sustainability and social justice.

On Hypercapitalism

You know I think capitalism is a particular economic system and we could talk about what it entails. But I think what’s what happened after World War Two and then especially in the late 70s and early 80s in the in North America and in Europe was there was a real shift towards a more extreme form of capitalism than was in place before you know and I think that that’s when you have globalisation coming in that’s when you have much more pushes towards privatisation you see a huge rise in consumerism at that time because you’ve got kind of modern advertising coming out view all different sorts of media especially the television etc. and then you have a lot of deregulation which occurs in many of these countries as well where government steps back and says go at it business you know how to do whatever you can do to maximise economic growth. And so this fetishism of economic growth and of buying stuff and of moneymaking and profit and all the rest really began an era where I don’t think we were in capitalism anymore. I think we had moved on to a more extreme version of capitalism that by putting all of these materialistic values at the forefront began to suppress even more and more and more values like equality values like caring about the environment et cetera.

And indeed it’s around that time when you start to see work hours go back up you start to see indices of inequality go up you really start to see lack of movement on a lot of environmental issues etc. So. So that’s how we understand hyper capitalism to a term that’s been around invented by somebody else. But it definitely seems apt to start to talk about you know what is the political economic social system that we find ourselves under in much of the world at this point.

On Neoliberalism

If you take a look at neoliberalism its fundamental tenets are tenets of deregulation, privatisation, and globalisation. and that you need to have government back off you need to have things as globalised as possible in terms of production and sales, and you again need to get the government out of the law-making business as much as possible so not regulating businesses. And you need to turn over as many government functions as possible to the private sector supposedly because the private sectors motive for profit will make it more efficient and then give everybody better products and better services.

So I think, fundamentally that’s the idea of neoliberalism.

You know again a lot of that emerges out of the out of the post-World War Two destruction and the Cold War the rise of the Chicago school of thought with regard to economics in particular. I think when you really see it hit home is when Reagan and Thatcher are in charge, early 80s that’s when you start to see neoliberalism become dominant in lots and lots of ways. And that’s when you start to then see the expansion into a hyper capitalist society.

That’s the fundamental faith of neoliberalism, well you know that if you turn things over to the invisible hand of the free market and you get government out of the way then good things will happen to me that is the fundamental faith state of neoliberalism.

But I would argue it is a faith statement.

Don’t get me wrong. Capitalism has been remarkably successful in doing what it sets out to do which is to provide a whole lot of products at relatively cheap prices for a whole lot of people and to create a great deal of wealth by its own terms.

Capitalism has been remarkably successful but if you care about equality or if you care about sustainability or if you care about authenticity and well-being, which are things capitalism doesn’t claim to care about, by the way, then you have to really question capitalism.

And again, here’s where we’re back to that fundamental value dynamic. You know the more and more you focus your lives and organisations and society and political structures around maximising wealth and consumption you’ve activated and encouraged those extrinsic values.

And as a result, you care less and suppress those intrinsic values for things like equality and sustainability and all the rest.

If we can trust all of the data we’re getting we know that things are headed down the wrong road.

And so we can either throw up our hands or we can start to develop alternative models.

Well we have to do is to start developing those alternatives and really work on them and figure them out so that we can try to prevent the bad things from happening. If that’s still possible and if it’s not possible then when the bad things do happen, we can say ‘Hey try this, not that!’

Here is the place where I think that the Nordic nations and then the Northern European nations as well you know Denmark and the Netherlands and Germany have been real leaders, have really pushed to develop these alternative models, to develop alternative practices, to try to try to make some changes at a structural levels and in lifestyle levels, to show it’s possible. And again, I would go back to where we started our conversation a while back. What’s also fascinating is that those are some of the happiest nations in the world. You know so and you can argue about why that is, but that the fact remains that these nations that are moving in these more sustainable ways also in study after study, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and the Netherlands, are oftentimes the among the happiest nations in the world.

It’s actually pretty short period of time that we’ve been under globalisation in the scope of human history, right? it’s been 40 years that’s a blip in this course of history.

When people focus on intrinsic values they focus less on materialistic values they’re happier they act in more pro social ways and they live in more ecologically sustainable ways.

Fundamentally at base the solution is actually fairly simple: How do we orient our personal lives our businesses our communities and our governments around intrinsic values rather than extrinsic values?

Because what all the evidence suggests is that if we can do that materialism will become less important people will be happier people will treat each other more nicely and people will treat the planet more nicely.

Now how to get from here to there is a different issue, but at least like with the thing that makes me optimistic is that there is a ‘there’ I can see. There is a ‘there’ that I can see and that I can understand and that makes sense theoretically from what I know as a psychologist. It has empirical data behind it. It actually is very consistent with almost every spiritual and philosophical tradition which has been around in the history of humanity. And there are people doing it now right. There are people who are living these ways now.

If any listener is out there who thinks these ideas are valid. I would encourage you to work at your city level first to get engaged in the city and try to change your city because I think that cities are where people live and so they. They have their experiences there and what happens at cities. If you can make something work at a city, it provides a model that you can say to another city or to a province or to the federal government ‘hey but it worked here, it worked here. Let’s try it at another place and try it in another place.”

Working at that local level is fundamental and our best shot.

End

SOUND BRIDGE TO KARMA URA:

Karma Ura’s Upbeat music. His own composition.

I am Karma Ura, and I’m presently the president of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies. It is an autonomous government sponsored think tank, and it is located in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.

We have mandate to conduct research on Gross National Happiness, policy background studies and culture.

My background is in economics and philosophy at the master’s level, and PhD in International Development. So, all of my professional life, for some 30 years now, has been devoted to Alternative Development, its indicators and statistics on one side, and Buddhist Philosophy, Literature and Fine Arts, on the other.

Incidentally, I am also a painter and I design artefacts and performances. For example, I designed the 1000 denomination currency for Bhutan. I have painted the murals of a whole temple, and designed a national festival which is held on the 13th December every year.

An 18th century mural of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), considered to be the architect of Bhutan.

On Development

The idea of development is usually introduced from outside. It is a frequently based on idea of industrialisation and an expansion of the economy.

Alternative development involves indigenous ideas about how we should transform our societies. If you have certain different ideas about transformation of society, along with different destination goals, that would qualify as alternative development.

Goal, in the context of Bhutan would be happiness of the people.

The goals of development in the case of Bhutan involves nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

Living standard is only one of the nine goals of development. The others are, Health, Education and Living standards; these are fairly well-known ones and followed everywhere else. Slightly new ones are Good Governance, Environment or Ecological Resilience, and Cultural Diversity and Resilience. So that comes to six domains. But the last three domains are on the frontier of development, and these are Psychological Well-being, Community Vitality and Balanced Time Use over 24 hours. We in Bhutan consider these 9 domains of Gross National Happiness as cause and conditions of happiness.

SOUND: 2. SINGING KIDS BHUTAN.wav

On Gross National Happiness- the background

It was first explicitly coined in 1979 by the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

For some time, GNH was realised through legislation and policies of the government, led by him. But In 2008 Bhutan became a parliamentary democracy.

Since then governments have been elected through universal franchise, as you know. Constitution was also adopted, and the constitution obliges the government to pursue a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness, to guide politicians and bureaucrats to the long-term goals of Gross National Happiness.

In 2006, we adopted the concept of nine domains of Gross National Happiness, and along with it, we were directed by the fifth King of Bhutan to create Gross National Happiness Index. Since then we have had a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness.

Measuring Happiness?

I think we have to be clear, when we talk about happiness, about how its measurement is laid out, what it measures, and on what the comparative ranking of the nations are based. As you know very well, the Nordic countries come on top in the ranking based on subjective well-being. We need to clarify a lot about international comparison and ranking of nations with regard to happiness. The World Happiness Report, I would like to emphasise, is based on a very narrow measurement of happiness to build international ranking.

Ours is much comprehensive and broader, much more probing about reality, and what human beings are. They need not just income. They need to simultaneously many other aspects included in the nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

In ecological terms the leadership and achievement of Bhutan is quite significant in the world.

Amongst the nine domains of Gross National Happiness, one of them is Ecological Diversity and Resilience. And government of Bhutan has been led by the leadership of the Kings to maintain a very high environmental quality, so that people’s welfare, which is dependent intimately with the quality of the environment, is very high. The contributions of Bhutan to the global climate change and environment or positive vision is unusually high.

At the moment 72 percent of the surface area of Bhutan is forest covered. 52 percent of the country is preserved as protected nature. Bhutan is carbon negative. Most of its energy is supplied by hydroelectricity. So it is green energy. People in their daily life has access to nature.

I think sometimes size and scale impresses people. But the aims that are enshrined the United Nations Global Assessment Report released on 6th May 2019, are all met by Bhutan.

All its ideals, all its goals would have been met by Bhutan in the field of environment, climate change and biodiversity. But Bhutan is small to have a global impact. Nevertheless, what it does on a per capita basis is extremely outstanding.

Bhutan as a country has taken extraordinary burden for the sake of global climate and biodiversity.

SOUND: Bells and Nuns-of-bhutan.wav

Nine domains of Gross National Happiness

The nine domains of Gross National Happiness are Psychological well-being, that is emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Community Vitality: since we are social by nature, companionship and good relations are at the forefront of well-being. Time use: that means nobody should run out of time to do things that are vital to well-being and happiness. We have to have some freedom over our own time over 24 hours.

Ecological Resilience and Diversity. Cultural Diversity and Resilience. Good Governance. Education, Health and Standard of Living. So, these adds up to the nine domains. I listed them separately but in reality, they are highly interdependent.

And so, it is important to see them in relation to each other rather than in isolation.

I think they – the nine domains – are relevant to any place where there are human beings and other sentient beings.

That would take us into the question of how the indicators are constructed and how the indicators are used as benchmark in national planning in Bhutan.

Poverty is minimal definition of well-being. It is a survival definition of well-being. It’s not really well-being. Happiness is a maximal concept of well-being. It is attainable and achievable.

In Bhutan you know the definition of happiness in terms of nine domains is related to measurement. We construct a single number GNH Index and 33 sub-indicators of GNH. Altogether we use about two hundred and thirty different variables to estimate the GNH index and its 33 sub-indicators. So now you can see the distinction of GNH measurement against poverty and subjective well-being. Both the latter measurements are based on a narrower measure of wellbeing.

To simplify things, if an individual were to achieve a perfect score in GNH index, he or she would have to have one hundred and thirty variables. And in these one hundred and thirty variables are drawn from nine domains of GNH.

I’m very familiar with the World Happiness Report because I am one of its council members. The United Nation’s World Happiness Report, first of all, is an outcome of a Bhutanese initiative. The Government of Bhutan organised a U.N. High Level Expert Meeting in April 2012, in the United Nations, in New York. it made two recommendations at that time. One was that governments around the world should make Happiness and Well-being a focus of their public policy. That was the first recommendation. And the second one was that the United Nations should declare our World Happiness Day. So, both were implemented.

Now as a result of this high-level meeting in the United Nations, World Happiness Report came into being, led by John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs.

From measuring to policymaking

One of the characteristics of the GNH index, and its 33 sub indicators, is that It can be disaggregated at any level to the nth variable and nth individual. You can disaggregate the achievements across all domains, demographic variables or gender.

This enables us to then see by using GNH indicators as a sort of lens, where and whether there is a gender difference or discrepancy, or age specific discrepancies, geography specific discrepancies. Theses can be picked up so neatly by the indicators which is based on a national survey conducted every four years.

Social and economic planning is done for five years at a time, so our Gross National Happiness survey is done in fourth year and the results are fed into the five-year plan as benchmarks, targets, and policy focus areas.

We can measure by experiential outcomes such as emotions, health and happiness scores etc. or you can measure by means to happiness.

In terms of happiness, I must say that there is a gender difference in outcome. Women in this country score slightly less though it is not very significant at 95 percent confidence. However, this distinction between men and women, in the attainment of happiness, disappears above 50. The performance on the happiness scale is lower for a woman, if we if we compare women and men below the age of 50.

The important thing to appreciate is that Reproductive Health is playing a negative role.Therefore, the government, taking this finding into account is strengthening maternity and child health. It gave a long maternity leave of one year, out of which 6 months is paid. We have only seven days of paternity leave here. The relegation of domestic chores to women and the social care burden which fall traditionally on women, is one of the big problems in Bhutan.

Introduction of cooking facilities and electricity should help resolve gender discrepancy. Electricity up to 100 units is free for rural areas. Education, health, and so many other essential things, such as water supply, are also free.

Karma Ura welcoming PM of Bhutan to an international conference at the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies.

SOUND BRIDGE: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

ON Gross National Happiness Business Certification

Bhutan is a country which escaped colonisation. And it’s one of the very few countries in the world to have been that fortunate.

This means that the continuity of ideas of what a nation should be, or what human beings aspires have not been smashed by any external ideas.

The continuity of institutions and ideas have been able to survive in this country. Bhutan has continued to be a Buddhist and ecological welfare state.

Because of its adherence to Buddhist welfare and ecological state, free market ideas cannot take complete dominance here. And that is why, the global corporations have not been able to intrude very much.

Bhutanese foreign direct investment rules are very strict. Environmental and cultural bars are very high here.

Those who are just hunting for profit cannot find it very easy to come into Bhutan.

Last year, at the direction of the Bhutanese government the Centre for Bhutan and GNH studies developed what you call GNH business certification.

This assessment will be applied to all corporations and businesses in future.

On evolving Corporate Social Responsibility

For a long time, Corporate Social Responsibility was the end all of business. But the shortcomings in CSR is that it does not require businesses much transparency in how they should make money. It is how they dispose a certain small proportion of the profit. After CSR, a new model of business is benefit corporation or B-corp in short. But GNH business certification is much more advanced in my opinion because it applies the nine domains to the workings of corporations in a very explicit way.

GNH index and 33 indicators is designed for governance purpose. For example, derived from Gross National Happiness’s nine domains is the GNH policy screening tool that the government applies to formulate and pass every policy of the government. For example, 15 policies have undergone GNH policy screening out of 22 policies so far. We will do similar assessment now to corporations by using GNH business certification.

As far as Europe is concerned, next year, in late March 2020, we will be having an international conference in Parma, Italy. One day out of three will be devoted to GNH and GNH business certification.

The Centre for Gross National Happiness and Cultural Studies, Bhutan.


On limits to growth

Bhutan also has a very modest tourism policy.

Foremost for us as a society is that nothing should step beyond our environmental-ecological capacity, and our cultural carrying capacity.

Because of those concerns we limit the number of tourists. It is not to maximise profit. It is only an activity that should be consistent with the carrying capacity of the country. A large part of our country is not opened, but the Western side of the country is already receiving tourist number in excess of its carrying capacity, so we are going to slow down tourism there.

We are slowing down. A new policy will come out to slow down tourism and reduce numbers in western part of the Bhutan, in line with our infrastructure capacity, environmental capacity, and cultural capacity. For example, if a Buddhist festival in a village can take only a hundred tourists, we should limit tourists to 100; the input and output in any sector should be limited to the amount of throughput which you can digest. For example,

if the environment cannot digest then we should put a threshold on the number.

On the spectrum of values

The idea of sustainability is really linked to idea of threshold.

We have to have a certain limit in the size of activity, the size of industry, or the size of the sector. We should not let it balloon out of ecological context. Any industry – let us say, food industry or fashion industry can expand and swallow up the whole non-market areas. We should put a distinction between what is good to put on the market and what should be left out of the market.

Many things about culture should be under ‘non market.’ A lot of things about happiness and well-being is dependent on non-market exchange. Not market exchange. 

The reciprocity of time to give social and emotional support, cultural work and social work have a huge value on their own, they do not need to have market exchange value.

The whole sphere of culture and community should be under that kind of non-market relations. Reciprocity rather than transactions in the market. The psychological well-being domain is equally important now with the plague of mental health problems around the world. We need to devise ways in terms of indicators to check on the level of positive emotions across the population, like compassion, generosity, calmness, forgiveness contentment or conversely, we need measure the distribution of negative things like anger, jealousy, fear, sadness. We need to know more about them, because people may be seething with negative emotions although it is not showing up in the GDP.

Politicians will only use hidden negative emotions as another weapon in their hands for polarising the population. Governments need to know the interior world of the citizens – how they feel across the spectrum of negative and positive emotions.

An advance warning mechanism should be found to know the emotional state of the people. If you do not, then the only way to express these latent things will be to vote, which will be seized by polarising politicians. That is not healthy. Before it lands in the lap of radicalising politicians — scientists, psychiatrists, social scientists need to know. Planners need to know so that we can address them.

Karma Ura Walking with Karma Ura & Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

On Urban Happiness Framework

At this moment we are almost at the end of developing an Urban Happiness framework.

The Probability of being happy or unhappy Is so hugely influenced by whether we live now in urban cities or rural areas.

We have decided to work on urban happiness framework because in the four domains of GNH like psychological wellbeing, culture, ecology and community vitality, we find that urban residents lag behind the rural. They are surging ahead in terms of two domains living standard and education.

Division is emerging in the country between those who live in rural areas and in urban areas. Now we want to reduce this gap. We can assess the current state of city planning, and we can also guide city planning through urban happiness framework. The detail arrangement of the urban planning that is sensitive to well-being and happiness has become urgent, really urgent. It’s a structural issue.

END

CREDITS:

SOUND: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

Tanya Voice:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON HAPPINESS. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com The music you heard with Dr. Karma Ura’s voice was composed by Karma Ura himself.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

 

 

Dasho Dr. Karma Ura: ON HAPPINESS

Dasho Dr. Karma Ura is the president of the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies. Gross National Happiness is a term coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970’s.

Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Dr. Karma Ura’s career has spanned development goals, statistics and indicators, and policy applications, as well as Buddhist literature, fine arts and philosophy. As President of the Centre he also directs programs in The Library of Mind, Body and Sound, which brings together the internal and external aspects of well-being and happiness through research, individual practices and policy designs.

Dr. Karma Ura walking with the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

Karma Ura has studied to Ph.D level at St. Stephen’s College Delhi, Oxford University, Edinburgh University, and Nagoya University. He has been awarded the ‘Druk Khorlo,’ or Wheel of Dragon Kingdom Award, by His Majesty the King of Bhutan for his contributions to literature and fine arts. Karma Ura is also active as an artist and designer; he has designed numerous artistic artefacts, performances and temple frescoes, and created a national cultural festival that is held every year on December 13th on the scenic mountain pass of Dochula. Karma Ura has shared his expertise on Gross National Happiness across the world.

Dr. Karma Ura at the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcript Dr. Karma Ura, from Nordic By Nature Podcast ON HAPPINESS.

SOUND BRIDGE TO KARMA URA:

Karma Ura’s Upbeat music. His own composition.

Intro
I am Karma Ura, and I’m presently the president of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies. It is an autonomous government sponsored think tank, and it is located in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.

We have mandate to conduct research on Gross National Happiness, policy background studies and culture.

My background is in economics and philosophy at the master’s level, and PhD in International Development. So, all of my professional life, for some 30 years now, has been devoted to Alternative Development, its indicators and statistics on one side, and Buddhist Philosophy, Literature and Fine Arts, on the other.

Incidentally, I am also a painter and I design artefacts and performances. For example, I designed the 1000 denomination currency for Bhutan. I have painted the murals of a whole temple, and designed a national festival which is held on the 13th December every year.

An 18th century mural of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), considered to be the architect of Bhutan.

On Development

The idea of development is usually introduced from outside. It is a frequently based on idea of industrialisation and an expansion of the economy.

Alternative development involves indigenous ideas about how we should transform our societies. If you have certain different ideas about transformation of society, along with different destination goals, that would qualify as alternative development.

Goal, in the context of Bhutan would be happiness of the people.

The goals of development in the case of Bhutan involves nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

Living standard is only one of the nine goals of development. The others are, Health, Education and Living standards; these are fairly well-known ones and followed everywhere else. Slightly new ones are Good Governance, Environment or Ecological Resilience, and Cultural Diversity and Resilience. So that comes to six domains. But the last three domains are on the frontier of development, and these are Psychological Well-being, Community Vitality and Balanced Time Use over 24 hours. We in Bhutan consider these 9 domains of Gross National Happiness as cause and conditions of happiness.

SOUND: 2. SINGING KIDS BHUTAN.wav

On Gross National Happiness- the background

It was first explicitly coined in 1979 by the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

For some time, GNH was realised through legislation and policies of the government, led by him. But In 2008 Bhutan became a parliamentary democracy.

Since then governments have been elected through universal franchise, as you know. Constitution was also adopted, and the constitution obliges the government to pursue a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness, to guide politicians and bureaucrats to the long-term goals of Gross National Happiness.

In 2006, we adopted the concept of nine domains of Gross National Happiness, and along with it, we were directed by the fifth King of Bhutan to create Gross National Happiness Index. Since then we have had a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness.

Measuring Happiness?

I think we have to be clear, when we talk about happiness, about how its measurement is laid out, what it measures, and on what the comparative ranking of the nations are based. As you know very well, the Nordic countries come on top in the ranking based on subjective well-being. We need to clarify a lot about international comparison and ranking of nations with regard to happiness. The World Happiness Report, I would like to emphasise, is based on a very narrow measurement of happiness to build international ranking.

Ours is much comprehensive and broader, much more probing about reality, and what human beings are. They need not just income. They need to simultaneously many other aspects included in the nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

In ecological terms the leadership and achievement of Bhutan is quite significant in the world.

Amongst the nine domains of Gross National Happiness, one of them is Ecological Diversity and Resilience. And government of Bhutan has been led by the leadership of the Kings to maintain a very high environmental quality, so that people’s welfare, which is dependent intimately with the quality of the environment, is very high. The contributions of Bhutan to the global climate change and environment or positive vision is unusually high.

At the moment 72 percent of the surface area of Bhutan is forest covered. 52 percent of the country is preserved as protected nature. Bhutan is carbon negative. Most of its energy is supplied by hydroelectricity. So it is green energy. People in their daily life has access to nature.

I think sometimes size and scale impresses people. But the aims that are enshrined the United Nations Global Assessment Report released on 6th May 2019, are all met by Bhutan.

All its ideals, all its goals would have been met by Bhutan in the field of environment, climate change and biodiversity. But Bhutan is small to have a global impact. Nevertheless, what it does on a per capita basis is extremely outstanding.

Bhutan as a country has taken extraordinary burden for the sake of global climate and biodiversity.

SOUND: Bells and Nuns-of-bhutan.wav

Nine domains of Gross National Happiness

The nine domains of Gross National Happiness are Psychological well-being, that is emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Community Vitality: since we are social by nature, companionship and good relations are at the forefront of well-being. Time use: that means nobody should run out of time to do things that are vital to well-being and happiness. We have to have some freedom over our own time over 24 hours.

Ecological Resilience and Diversity. Cultural Diversity and Resilience. Good Governance. Education, Health and Standard of Living. So, these adds up to the nine domains. I listed them separately but in reality, they are highly interdependent.

And so, it is important to see them in relation to each other rather than in isolation.

I think they – the nine domains – are relevant to any place where there are human beings and other sentient beings.

That would take us into the question of how the indicators are constructed and how the indicators are used as benchmark in national planning in Bhutan.

Poverty is minimal definition of well-being. It is a survival definition of well-being. It’s not really well-being. Happiness is a maximal concept of well-being. It is attainable and achievable.

In Bhutan you know the definition of happiness in terms of nine domains is related to measurement. We construct a single number GNH Index and 33 sub-indicators of GNH. Altogether we use about two hundred and thirty different variables to estimate the GNH index and its 33 sub-indicators. So now you can see the distinction of GNH measurement against poverty and subjective well-being. Both the latter measurements are based on a narrower measure of wellbeing.

To simplify things, if an individual were to achieve a perfect score in GNH index, he or she would have to have one hundred and thirty variables. And in these one hundred and thirty variables are drawn from nine domains of GNH.

I’m very familiar with the World Happiness Report because I am one of its council members. The United Nation’s World Happiness Report, first of all, is an outcome of a Bhutanese initiative. The Government of Bhutan organised a U.N. High Level Expert Meeting in April 2012, in the United Nations, in New York. it made two recommendations at that time. One was that governments around the world should make Happiness and Well-being a focus of their public policy. That was the first recommendation. And the second one was that the United Nations should declare our World Happiness Day. So, both were implemented.

Now as a result of this high-level meeting in the United Nations, World Happiness Report came into being, led by John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs.

From measuring to policymaking

One of the characteristics of the GNH index, and its 33 sub indicators, is that It can be disaggregated at any level to the nth variable and nth individual. You can disaggregate the achievements across all domains, demographic variables or gender.

This enables us to then see by using GNH indicators as a sort of lens, where and whether there is a gender difference or discrepancy, or age specific discrepancies, geography specific discrepancies. Theses can be picked up so neatly by the indicators which is based on a national survey conducted every four years.

Social and economic planning is done for five years at a time, so our Gross National Happiness survey is done in fourth year and the results are fed into the five-year plan as benchmarks, targets, and policy focus areas.

We can measure by experiential outcomes such as emotions, health and happiness scores etc. or you can measure by means to happiness.

In terms of happiness, I must say that there is a gender difference in outcome. Women in this country score slightly less though it is not very significant at 95 percent confidence. However, this distinction between men and women, in the attainment of happiness, disappears above 50. The performance on the happiness scale is lower for a woman, if we if we compare women and men below the age of 50.

The important thing to appreciate is that Reproductive Health is playing a negative role.Therefore, the government, taking this finding into account is strengthening maternity and child health. It gave a long maternity leave of one year, out of which 6 months is paid. We have only seven days of paternity leave here. The relegation of domestic chores to women and the social care burden which fall traditionally on women, is one of the big problems in Bhutan.

Introduction of cooking facilities and electricity should help resolve gender discrepancy. Electricity up to 100 units is free for rural areas. Education, health, and so many other essential things, such as water supply, are also free.

SOUND BRIDGE: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

ON Gross National Happiness Business Certification

Bhutan is a country which escaped colonisation. And it’s one of the very few countries in the world to have been that fortunate.

This means that the continuity of ideas of what a nation should be, or what human beings aspires have not been smashed by any external ideas.

The continuity of institutions and ideas have been able to survive in this country. Bhutan has continued to be a Buddhist and ecological welfare state.

Because of its adherence to Buddhist welfare and ecological state, free market ideas cannot take complete dominance here. And that is why, the global corporations have not been able to intrude very much.

Bhutanese foreign direct investment rules are very strict. Environmental and cultural bars are very high here.

Those who are just hunting for profit cannot find it very easy to come into Bhutan.

Last year, at the direction of the Bhutanese government the Centre for Bhutan and GNH studies developed what you call GNH business certification.

This assessment will be applied to all corporations and businesses in future.

On evolving Corporate Social Responsibility

For a long time, Corporate Social Responsibility was the end all of business. But the shortcomings in CSR is that it does not require businesses much transparency in how they should make money. It is how they dispose a certain small proportion of the profit. After CSR, a new model of business is benefit corporation or B-corp in short. But GNH business certification is much more advanced in my opinion because it applies the nine domains to the workings of corporations in a very explicit way.

GNH index and 33 indicators is designed for governance purpose. For example, derived from Gross National Happiness’s nine domains is the GNH policy screening tool that the government applies to formulate and pass every policy of the government. For example, 15 policies have undergone GNH policy screening out of 22 policies so far. We will do similar assessment now to corporations by using GNH business certification.

As far as Europe is concerned, next year, in late March 2020, we will be having an international conference in Parma, Italy. One day out of three will be devoted to GNH and GNH business certification.

On limits to growth

Bhutan also has a very modest tourism policy.

Foremost for us as a society is that nothing should step beyond our environmental-ecological capacity, and our cultural carrying capacity.

Because of those concerns we limit the number of tourists. It is not to maximise profit. It is only an activity that should be consistent with the carrying capacity of the country. A large part of our country is not opened, but the Western side of the country is already receiving tourist number in excess of its carrying capacity, so we are going to slow down tourism there.

We are slowing down. A new policy will come out to slow down tourism and reduce numbers in western part of the Bhutan, in line with our infrastructure capacity, environmental capacity, and cultural capacity. For example, if a Buddhist festival in a village can take only a hundred tourists, we should limit tourists to 100; the input and output in any sector should be limited to the amount of throughput which you can digest. For example,

if the environment cannot digest then we should put a threshold on the number.

On the spectrum of values

The idea of sustainability is really linked to idea of threshold.

We have to have a certain limit in the size of activity, the size of industry, or the size of the sector. We should not let it balloon out of ecological context. Any industry – let us say, food industry or fashion industry can expand and swallow up the whole non-market areas. We should put a distinction between what is good to put on the market and what should be left out of the market.

Many things about culture should be under ‘non market.’ A lot of things about happiness and well-being is dependent on non-market exchange. Not market exchange. 

The reciprocity of time to give social and emotional support, cultural work and social work have a huge value on their own, they do not need to have market exchange value.

The whole sphere of culture and community should be under that kind of non-market relations. Reciprocity rather than transactions in the market. The psychological well-being domain is equally important now with the plague of mental health problems around the world. We need to devise ways in terms of indicators to check on the level of positive emotions across the population, like compassion, generosity, calmness, forgiveness contentment or conversely, we need measure the distribution of negative things like anger, jealousy, fear, sadness. We need to know more about them, because people may be seething with negative emotions although it is not showing up in the GDP.

Politicians will only use hidden negative emotions as another weapon in their hands for polarising the population. Governments need to know the interior world of the citizens – how they feel across the spectrum of negative and positive emotions.

An advance warning mechanism should be found to know the emotional state of the people. If you do not, then the only way to express these latent things will be to vote, which will be seized by polarising politicians. That is not healthy. Before it lands in the lap of radicalising politicians — scientists, psychiatrists, social scientists need to know. Planners need to know so that we can address them.

Karma Ura Walking with Karma Ura & Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

On Urban Happiness Framework

At this moment we are almost at the end of developing an Urban Happiness framework.

The Probability of being happy or unhappy Is so hugely influenced by whether we live now in urban cities or rural areas.

We have decided to work on urban happiness framework because in the four domains of GNH like psychological wellbeing, culture, ecology and community vitality, we find that urban residents lag behind the rural. They are surging ahead in terms of two domains living standard and education.

Division is emerging in the country between those who live in rural areas and in urban areas. Now we want to reduce this gap. We can assess the current state of city planning, and we can also guide city planning through urban happiness framework. The detail arrangement of the urban planning that is sensitive to well-being and happiness has become urgent, really urgent. It’s a structural issue.

END

CREDITS:

SOUND: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

Tanya Voice:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON HAPPINESS. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com The music you heard with Dr. Karma Ura’s voice was composed by Karma Ura himself.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

Guión Del Episodio 3: Sobre La Resiliencia Interior

 

Título en inglés: “On Inner Resilience”
Nordic by Nature
Sonido: Música De Diego Losa
Introducción: Voz De Tanya.

Bienvenidos a Nordic by Nature, un podcast producido por “Ecology Today”, inspirado por el filósofo noruego Arne Naess, quien acuñó el término “Ecología profunda”.

Naess utilizó el término “auto realización” para indicar una imagen de perfección, un proceso y un propósito, tanto para una persona como para una comunidad. El podcast “Sobre la Resiliencia Interior”, combina las ideas de Naess sobre “auto realización” y una visión del equilibrio humano. Este contenido sólo debería ser puesto en práctica con un sentido de alegría interior y de benevolencia hacia el mundo.

La “Resiliencia Interior” puede ser definida a partir de ciertas características:

La “Resiliencia Interior” es plena de sentido y deseable, pero en ocasiones puede ser dolorosa. No es un sinónimo de comodidad. Más bien, es un proceso de maduración espiritual, por el cual una persona actúa de una manera más consistente consigo misma como un todo;

La “Resiliencia Interior” es un proceso continuo; puede ser alcanzada a través del conocimiento y el estudio, pero exige una práctica constante que incluye cultivar, comunicar y compartir valores como la compasión;

La “Resiliencia Interior” desarrolla nuevos tipos de habilidades que son necesarias para una transformación personal, incluyendo la empatía, el respeto, la humildad, la construcción de consensos y la co-creación;

Estamos constantemente cambiando y no podemos separarnos de los procesos planetarios de los que somos parte. Nuestra propia salud y bienestar no pueden existir a expensas de otros, ni de la diversidad biológica y cultural que son la naturaleza de la vida.

Ajay Rastogi comenzará introduciéndonos en una práctica de Mindfulness secular y centrada en la naturaleza, que él mismo desarrolló, y enseña actualmente, en la Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza, en Majkhali, un pueblo de los Himalayas en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en India.

Después escucharemos las palabras de Noor A Noor, un conservacionista egipcio de la Universidad de Cambridge en el Reino Unido, quien describe su propio camino personal hacia la “Conservación” y el Mindfulness, a través de su historia familiar, su experiencia con la música, y los dramáticos acontecimientos de la revolución egipcia de 2011.

Luego escucharemos a Judith Schleicher. Judith nos explicará cómo la meditación diaria le ha ayudado en su trabajo en “Conservación”, después de participar, por primera vez, en un retiro de Vipassana de diez días en Perú, hace siete años.

Finalmente, escucharemos a Christoph Eberhard, antropólogo legal y practicante de las artes tradicionales Chinas e Indias como el Tai Chi Chuan, el Qi Gong y el Yoga. Christoph cree que el diálogo está en el corazón de una transformación plena de sentido: el diálogo con un mismo, el diálogo con otros, el diálogo con la naturaleza y el diálogo con lo trascendente (“the beyond”).

Este podcast está diseñado para que pueda ser escuchado con audífonos. Ojalá puedas hacerte un tiempo y disfrutar escuchándolo.

AJAY RASTOGI

Hola, mi nombre es Ajay Rastogi …. y … nosotros vivimos en el pueblo de Majkhali, en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en la región india de los Himalayas …. y … está a alrededor de 400 kilómetros al norte de Dehli. Desde aquí miramos muchos de los altos picos del Himalaya de más de 6.000 metros.

He sido ecologista y medioambientalista durante gran parte de mi vida.

Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

Ajay On The Contemplation Of Nature.

El hecho de que no hayamos sido capaces de hacer grandes cambios en la sociedad, que son necesarios para lograr la sustentabilidad, requiere que revisemos el enfoque que hemos adoptado hasta ahora en los movimientos ambientales. Por esta razón, empecé a pensar que nada sería más transformador que una práctica meditativa que pudiera ser hecha en la naturaleza….

La meditación ha sido considerada como una metodología para la transformación interior.

La Contemplación De La Naturaleza

La contemplación de la naturaleza, una práctica meditativa[1], se realiza en un entorno natural. Es una experiencia multisensorial.

Esto ayuda, porque somos un organismo biológico, y por lo tanto tenemos un impulso inherente para conectarnos con la naturaleza. Es algo para lo que estamos genéticamente configurados, por lo que no es una meditación tan abstracta como muchas otras que la gente encuentra, por lo que es una buena manera de empezar.

Las personas pueden comenzar con esta meditación, y después llegar a niveles más profundos siguiendo cualquier otra práctica que deseen. La meditación en la naturaleza, la contemplación de la naturaleza, definitivamente es un práctica que puede llevarse a cabo cotidianamente, que nos lleva a un nivel de tranquilidad y nos aporta beneficios como la compasión y la bondad, así como una más profunda conexión con la naturaleza y con la comunidad a nuestro alrededor.

Aproximadamente después de 23 minutos de meditación, la tranquilidad que se alcanza gatilla procesos más profundos de relajación fisiológica, lo que lleva al cuerpo y su química interna a un estado mucho más regulado y balanceado. Esta es la llamada “respuesta de relajación”, que es lo que estamos intentando lograr en un nivel fisiológico y psíquico, además de los otros beneficios que entrega la meditación.

Entonces, mientras nos sentamos y observamos con una mirada suave….

A veces podemos no tener acceso a un paisaje natural, pero esta meditación puede ser realizada también en algún interior, utilizando objetos muy sencillos. Luego, sigues los tres pasos de la contemplación que hemos diseñado….

Acerca De La Meditación

Entonces, los tres pasos …. tres simples pasos, son: a) observar la naturaleza con una mirada suave; b) aceptar con desapego gentil; y c) enviar amor con atención simpatética.

Observamos la naturaleza con una mirada suave, permaneciendo en la aceptación con un gentil desapego. No nos interesamos en encontrar ningún detalle. Por supuesto, la mente va a deambular de un lado a otro, pero tan pronto como nos demos cuenta de que nos hemos alejado a la deriva, podemos volver a la contemplación de la naturaleza con una mirada suave.

Un elemento adicional, muy importante en la práctica de contemplar la naturaleza, es “dejar ir”, y esto sucede sólo cuando nos sentamos y empezamos a contemplar, generando un sentimiento de amor con atención simpatética, y recordándonos a nosotros mismos la gratitud, un sentimiento de gratitud. Y continuamos sentados, observando suavemente con la mirada y con un desapego gentil.

“Dejar ir” es no hacer ningún juicio acerca de “dónde estamos” y “qué estamos haciendo”. Éste es un paso trascendental en la naturaleza, y por lo tanto es un aspecto fundamental de la práctica, a través de la cual somos capaces, de alguna manera, de trascender el impulso de juzgar y pensar, al menos por un breve momento.

Voz 2: Noor A Noor

NOOR A NOOR

Mi nombre es Noor A Noor. Soy un egipcio de 28 años, realizando un master de “Liderazgo en Conservación”. Antes de venir a Cambridge, dediqué los últimos 7 años a dirigir la ONG Nature Conservation Egypt, una institución que trabaja en la conservación de los hábitats de especies y de comunidades locales.

 

Noor Sobre Egipto En 2011

Cuando era pequeño, yo era un niño de ciudad. Mis padres eran muy activistas por la justicia social, y por los derechos políticos y económicos. Sin embargo, no recuerdo que me hayan llevado a la naturaleza …. no fue parte de mi educación.

En 2011, Egipto vivió uno de los más increíbles aunque dramáticos levantamientos, en los que cientos de miles de egipcios salieron a la calle exigiendo más pan, libertad y justicia social. Y obviamente todo lo que se deriva de estos tres componentes. Como resultado, se produjeron cambios significativos. Algunos de ellos fueron para mejor, pero muchos otros fueron para peor.

Nos enfrentamos a una inmensa violencia por parte de las personas encargadas en ese tiempo, específicamente las fuerzas armadas.

Había un constante conflicto con los manifestantes que exigían una completa transición hacia un gobierno más democrático y respetuoso de los derechos humanos. Como resultado, hubo una tremenda persecución, y hasta el día de hoy muchos egipcios continúan siendo perseguidos por el Estado.

Durante ese año 2011, yo, al igual que cientos de miles de egipcios que tomaban parte en estas demostraciones, tuvimos literalmente que correr por nuestras vidas…. las suficientes veces como para darnos cuenta que la vida no es lo que parece, cuando tienes que correr para ponerte a salvo. Pasé entonces de estar siempre preparado para sacrificarme por la causa, a darme cuenta de que en realidad sería más útil para la sociedad si trataba de sobrevivir, y parte de ese darme cuenta vino del hecho de pasar tiempo en la naturaleza por primera vez.

Noor: Descubriendo La Naturaleza

Por primera vez estaba pasando una significativa cantidad de tiempo en la naturaleza, aprendiendo de la naturaleza y enseñando sobre la naturaleza, así como conservando la naturaleza, todo como parte del nuevo trabajo que asumí desde el 2012.

Mientras más entendía la naturaleza, más terminé entendiéndome a mí mismo.

Poco a poco, terminé por encontrarme con el Mindfulness, que al principio odiaba como término porque encontraba que era muy contraintuitivo. Pero mientras más leía sobre Mindfulness, más empezó a resonarme y a hacerme sentido, tanto en un nivel teórico como político y personal. Pasar más tiempo en la naturaleza, ir comprendiendo cómo funciona y dejándome inspirar y sanar por ella … todo eso fue en sí mismo un proceso de Mindfulness.

Esencialmente, tuve que pasar por muchos traumas físicos y emocionales ese año, ya sea infligidos en mi persona, o peor aún, que afectaron a quienes yo cuidaba, e incluso a quienes no conocía, pero con quienes compartía un terreno político común.

El trauma acumulado en esos años, por mí y por miles de otros, se arrastra hasta estos días.

No hay nada romántico en una revolución. No hay nada romántico en un conflicto ni en los levantamientos sociales, porque hay mucho que se sacrifica….

Pero estoy completamente agradecido…. por la manera en que finalmente terminé por responder a estos traumas, en un nivel físico y emocional, por cómo logré alcanzar un mayor nivel de Mindfulness para reducir mis niveles de ansiedad…

…. incluso políticamente. Creo que esto contribuyó a ver de mejor manera cómo podemos…. ser mejor holísticamente como planeta; cómo sobrellevar las inevitables crisis que estamos enfrentando y que continuaremos enfrentando a una tasa exponencial en el futuro.

Después de los levantamientos de 2011, estaba decidido a trabajar en terreno, y terminé dirigiendo una ONG dedicada a la conservación de la naturaleza y trabajando en una empresa de turismo educativo ambiental, llamada Dima.

Me hizo darme cuenta de ciertas dimensiones que estaban relacionadas con nuestra supervivencia, con la sustentabilidad, y con las batallas que estábamos dando por la justicia.

Me di cuenta de la importancia de la naturaleza y de los recursos naturales de los cuales dependemos.

Lo que mucha gente está comprendiendo ahora es que todas las dinámicas políticas, económicas e incluso sociales, relacionadas con nosotros como especie, están directa o indirectamente relacionadas con la manera en que interactuamos con la naturaleza que nos rodea.

El hecho de que continuemos viéndonos separados de aquello que nos mantiene vivos, empezando por la comida, y muchas otras cosas más, incluso el aire del que extraemos el oxígeno que necesitamos, que proviene de otros seres vivos y otros hábitats de este planeta, está en el centro de algunos de los actuales conflictos sobre los recursos naturales, así como de la trayectoria que seguimos hacia el colapso del sistema que nos sostiene.

El concepto de “Ecología Política” es un excelente término para dar cuenta de esta situación. Lo que nos dice este concepto es que siempre que pensemos en recursos naturales, necesitamos pensar en las estructuras políticas, sociales y económicas que imponemos a la naturaleza, si es que vamos a hablar de conservación. Y al mismo tiempo, si lo que buscamos es el desarrollo social, necesitamos pensar en los procesos ecológicos que soportan estos procesos sociales.

Para ser honestos, estamos todos implicados. El teléfono que estoy usando ahora, para hablar con ustedes acerca de la sustentabilidad, los componentes que han sido usados para construir este teléfono, no son sustentables. El café que estoy saboreando en este momento, supuestamente proviene de un proceso que es éticamente correcto, pero finalmente es probable que provenga de algún lugar muy lejano a eso. Esto en sí mismo, que es parte de nuestra cultura de consumo, hace muy difícil que estemos conscientes de todas aquellas cosas que comemos y bebemos, porque hemos llegado a ser muy dependientes de ellas.

Cuando tenía 15 años, mi padre fue encarcelado por el gobierno de Mubarak, el régimen que estuvo en el poder por más de 30 años. Mi padre fue sentenciado a 4 o 5 años de prisión, como castigo por participar en las movilizaciones políticas que se oponían al presidente…. en ese tiempo recuerdo muy específicamente haberme dicho a mí mismo cosas como: ok, tienes un minuto para sentir lo que tengas que sentir … tan pronto como ese minuto pase, cambia el switch. Cambia el switch …. continúa con lo que tienes que hacer en tu día a día, no te rebeles en tu interior, sólo continúa funcionando. Recuerdo perfectamente tener 15 años y estarme diciendo estas cosas. Y aunque obviamente esto puede no ser siempre la mejor solución, recuerdo haberme forzado a mí mismo a hacer esto para desconectarme de la ansiedad y el miedo que estaba en mi cabeza. Sólo para ser capaz de seguir funcionando.

Diez años más tarde, cuando me encontré a mí mismo … reconociendo mi ansiedad por primera vez, ¡me di cuenta de que había estado respirando incorrectamente toda mi vida! (risa), y fue una realización fascinante porque … técnicamente …. no nos enseñan cómo respirar correctamente cuando somos niños… nadie te dice que respires a través de tu estómago cuando eres un niño.

En mi último año de universidad estaba estudiando ciencia política y derecho, y ese último año me involucré en un proyecto para hacer música a partir de la basura.

Así que … nos dedicábamos a… reciclar y reutilizar deshechos para hacer música, y para despertar una conciencia ambiental y social utilizando la música como un medio. Ese proyecto musical, a través de los conciertos que organicé, me ayudó a conocer a la gente con la que terminé trabajando en los años que siguieron.

Voz 3: JUDITH SCHLEICHER (c. 8 Mins) 

JUDITH SCHLEICHER

Soy Judith Schleicher. Soy postdoc[2] aquí en el Departamento de Geografía de la Universidad de Cambridge, y también trabajo actualmente como Consultora en el Centro de Monitoreo de la Conservación Mundial del Medio Ambiente de Naciones Unidas.

Siempre he estado interesada en los bosques tropicales, su diversidad, la gente que vive ahí, la diversidad cultural, la biodiversidad, todo eso … tratando de protegerlo, y también de entender mejor a la gente y nuestra relación con ella.

Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.

Cuando estaba haciendo mi Phd[3] empecé a meditar … mucho … y luego, cuando tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en la relación entre la naturaleza y las personas, después de mi doctorado, me pareció que todas estas cosas finalmente se reunían.

Desde este lugar, lo que podemos ver es un estacionamiento y mucho concreto. Y tú sabes, si ese es el ambiente en el que crecemos, y que con la edad nos volvemos menos conectados aún, pienso que eso no sólo tiene un impacto muy negativo en nuestro desarrollo personal, en nuestro crecimiento personal y como sociedad, sino que también significa que en el futuro podríamos preocuparnos aún menos por lo que nos queda.

Pienso que lo que es realmente importante es que también miremos hacia nuestro interior. Necesitamos pensar en nosotros mismos, en nuestro propio bienestar, y trabajar en hacer los cambios desde adentro, y luego podremos hacer cambios más allá de nosotros.  Y creo que esas son las cosas que realmente necesitan ser parte de nuestro sistema educativo: cómo crecemos, cuáles son las cosas que realmente importan en nuestras vidas.

Los niños pasan tanto tiempo en el colegio, y se les enseñan tantas cosas que involucran sólo nuestro intelecto – sólo pensar en ellas – pero realmente no se piensa en cómo desarrollamos nuestra resiliencia emocional, cómo tenemos que pensar en nuestro bienestar, cómo desarrollamos nuestra propia actitud mental.

Preocuparnos realmente de eso es tan importante. Y si pudiéramos hacer de eso una parte fundamental de la vida de una persona cuando está creciendo, creo que ése sería un cambio positivo inmenso.

Me gustaría mucho ver, por ejemplo, que se impartieran clases de Mindfulness y meditación como parte del curriculum normal de educación, y que entonces la gente pudiera empezar a pensar “qué es lo importante en mi vida” y “cuáles son las cosas que son importantes”.

Si realmente internalizamos todo eso, luego podremos tener una discusión auna escala más amplia … a una escala comunitaria, a una escala social e incluso a una escala nacional, sobre cuál es la dirección en que queremos ir … Pero realmente tenemos que empezar en un nivel personal… Mucha gente no está familiarizada con la meditación, y no sabe realmente lo que significa. Podrían pensar, por ejemplo, que por ser budista entonces tiene connotaciones religiosas, cuando no es necesario que sea así. Puede ser secular y no tener nada que ver con religión.

La espiritualidad no quiere decir que tienes que creer en una religión específica.

Puede ser realmente muy desafiante trabajar en “Conservación” porque siempre tienes que estar peleando una batalla cuesta arriba.

Básicamente siempre te estás confrontando con malas noticias. E incluso la manera en que nosotros mismos hablamos de eso, muchas veces es de una manera muy negativa.

Estaba avanzando en mi campo profesional y muchas cosas iban mal, y entonces una amiga, quien había estado meditando por un tiempo muy largo, desde que era una adolescente, me dijo: “ohh hay un curso de meditación de diez días en silencio, que se hará en Lima, donde tú estás”, y me dijo “por qué no lo haces”? Yo dije “¡seguro!”, pero nunca había pensado en la meditación ni en ninguna de esas cosas. Y luego una noche me dije: “¿por qué haría algo como eso?”

Hice el curso de diez días sin saber nada acerca de él. No sabía lo que era la meditación, no tenía ninguna idea en qué me estaba metiendo. Fue una experiencia fascinante, de esas que te cambian la vida. Quiero decir, en un curso de diez días pasas por tantas cosas y altibajos, pero cada minuto que pones en eso vale la pena. Tuve tantas experiencias positivas, pero la más fuerte fue definitivamente una sensación de paz interior, que nunca antes había sentido de esta manera.

No sólo sabiendo de eso, sino que realmente sintiendo que esa felicidad y contentamiento no tiene nada que ver con algo externo.

Y por supuesto, hay cosas que puedes saber intelectualmente, pero realmente sentirlas es una cosa muy diferente, y experimentarlas…. Ya sabes, por supuesto que siempre hay un desafío de internalizarlo en el día a día, y sin embargo sabes que es un gran regalo que sí puedes experimentar.

He hecho algunos más de estos cursos, y cada vez, al final, es maravilloso cuando no has estado hablando por un tiempo, durante diez días; tu mente está tan focalizada y tan clara, y te das cuenta cómo nos impacta toda esta continua charla, y por toda la información con la que está siendo alimentado tu cerebro todo el tiempo. Realmente te das cuenta de cuál es el impacto…. en cuanto empiezas a hablar, tu mente simplemente ….  puff!…. se vuelve loca….

Un primer paso verdaderamente importante es darse cuenta, tú sabes eso que dicen, que sientes que te vuelves más sensitivo, pero quizás es sólo que te das cuenta de algo que siempre ha estado ahí, desde antes de que te dieras cuenta. Esto significa que no podías cuidar de tu cuerpo …. en la manera en que éste necesitaba, con la atención que necesitaba, por el contrario. Tú sabes, los mismos procesos podrían haber continuado, sin que tuvieras forma de darte cuenta del impacto que tenía en ti. Quiero decir, puedo conectar completamente con lo que tú dices[4] acerca de que la naturaleza provee ese espacio en el que puedes desarrollar todas estas cosas.

Supongo que muchas de las cosas que experimento a través de la meditación, antes, estando en medio de la naturaleza, simplemente surgieron de manera natural. Si me siento en un bosque, que es un ambiente que me gusta mucho, nunca me siento sola. Puedo sentirme sola estando rodeada de mucha gente, en un ambiente no natural, pero sé que no me sentiré sola si estoy en medio de un bosque, simplemente estando ahí. Mientras que en nuestra sociedad siempre nos están diciendo que seamos productivos. Tenemos que estar haciendo … tenemos que estar haciendo cosas. Es mucho más sano estar alejado de eso, al menos con cierta frecuencia, y simplemente “estar”, “estar” con la naturaleza, “estar” con otras personas. Y eso es lo que, finalmente, produce contentamiento y felicidad interior. Y la naturaleza provee el natural espacio para hacer eso.

Tu mente está justo en ese momento.

En el curso de meditación en el que he estado ayudando por todos estos años, estaba en la cocina, preparando comida para un grupo de ciento treinta o ciento cuarenta personas, lo que puede ser muy demandante, porque … tú sabes, cocinar para tanta gente y en espacios de tiempo muy restringidos, es lo que mucha gente podría llamar un ambiente estresante, con personas con las que nunca había trabajado antes, pero eran todos meditadores y todos eran conscientes o al menos más conscientes acerca de estas cosas. Y era, no sólo un muy buen trabajo sino que también era muy entretenido y éramos un gran equipo de trabajo … Así que, si pudiera traducir esto a mi mundo cotidiano … sería maravilloso.

Empecé a meditar hace 7 años. Medito diariamente al menos por una hora, algunas veces más. Y eso hace una inmensa diferencia en cómo vivo el día a día. Y también ha hecho una gran diferencia probablemente en la forma en que pienso acerca de la “Conservación”.

Antes de empezar a meditar, toda aquella retórica pesimista y negativa algunas veces puede ser realmente desalentadora, y hacerte sentir que es realmente muy difícil pensar en hacer un cambio positivo, si no tienes esta práctica.

Eso es muy difícil de entender a veces.

Con la meditación también tengo un sentido, más profundo creo, de tranquilidad, tú sabes, de que estaremos bien eventualmente, y que la naturaleza será capaz de hacer frente … Si los humanos podremos hacerlo, bueno esa es otra pregunta. Supongo que … sí, que me ayuda a estar más en paz internamente, de que puedo hacer lo que está en mis posibilidades hacer para luchar por un mundo más justo y más sustentable ambientalmente. Y que puedo estar bien pase lo que pase.

Voz 4: Christoph Eberhardt (C.12.03)
(31:35)

Christoph Eberhard

Soy Christoph Eberhard, soy austríaco, y ahora estoy radicado en el sur de Francia, en Archachon.

Para ponerlo en pocas palabras, toda mi vida ha sido dedicada a … umh … diría que a la búsqueda de la paz, o de la armonía … una armonía viva.

Esto se manifiesta, por una parte, digamos en las ciencias sociales. Tengo una carrera como Antropólogo Legal, entre el derecho y las ciencias sociales, tratando de ver cómo podemos vivir en comunidad de una manera más dialógica, entendiéndonos unos a otros y armonizando unos con otros un poco mejor.

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Y luego un segundo aspecto ha sido como un diálogo interior y con la naturaleza, y eso se expresa especialmente en mi interés en el arte tradicional, especialmente el arte chino y el arte indio, como el Yoga.

Para mí, la resiliencia interior está en esta dimensión del diálogo …

El diálogo es escuchar, pero no es sólo escuchar con tus oídos, es escuchar con tu corazón, y más aún, es escuchar con tu alma.

Podemos experimentar eso en nuestra experiencia del día a día. Es sólo cosa de tomar un poco de tiempo antes de empezar a hablar inmediatamente, tomando 5 o 10 minutos para armonizar antes de empezar a hacer cualquier cosa.

Sólo dejando que la mente se aquiete, “enraizándose” de cierta manera.

A veces las personas no quieren hacerlo, dicen que no tienen tiempo para hacerlo, pero justamente sentarse así, en silencio, en calma, de cierta manera cambia completamente la atmósfera.

Y si lo haces, encontrarás que las personas están mucho, mucho, mucho más abiertas a un diálogo real, a escucharse unos a otros, a realmente compartir sus experiencias, de lo que encontrarías sin ese tiempo de silencio al inicio.

Entonces, empiezas a dialogar con otro ser humano. Realmente a dialogar, en el sentido de que realmente quieres escuchar a la otra persona, y te permites ser desafiado por la visión de mundo que el otro te presenta, o la sensibilidad que está expresando.

Mientras que por una parte puede ser enriquecedor, algunas veces puede ser muy impactante. Tú sabes … puede ser que no realmente no queramos escuchar ciertas cosas, o que realmente no las escuchemos aún cuando las hayamos oído más de cien veces, y repentinamente tu sientes “Oh wow”…. había algo más profundo que lo que pensaba.

Entonces cuando esto ocurre es … es como un desafío, también, algo que nos lleva a un segundo tipo de diálogo, que es un diálogo que yo llamo “con uno mismo”; empiezas a estar consciente de cuál es, llamémoslo, el horizonte invisible de las acciones y del vivir.

Y para eso, realmente necesitamos el diálogo con otros, porque de otra manera nunca llegaremos a estar conscientes de nuestra propia ventana personal.

Y luego, cuando empiezas a profundizar en este diálogo con otros y contigo mismo, escuchándote más a ti mismo, también empiezas a darte cuenta de que realmente estás conectado con toda la naturaleza alrededor tuyo. Que, en un cierto sentido, una vez que la sensibilidad a escuchar ha sido abierta, bueno, empezarás a escuchar a los árboles, al sol, a las flores, las nubes …. En cierta manera ellas empezarán a hablarte.

Si quieres escuchar, primero tienes que vaciarte a ti mismo, y entonces todo viene y habla contigo. Este es el aspecto dialógico de la naturaleza que empieza a desarrollarse. Entonces, es un diálogo con uno mismo, con los demás, con la naturaleza. Y luego está esta otra dimensión del diálogo que yo llamo “más allá”, o como tú quieras llamarlo, tú sabes, estas cosas que están más allá de las palabras y que no puedes realmente expresarlas, pero que también están ahí.

Algunas veces, cuando hablamos de lo “interior”, nosotros o separamos o distinguimos de “lo exterior”. Por mí, yo diría más bien que la experiencia de entrar en tu interior, o de entrar en diálogo con otros o entrar en diálogo con la naturaleza o con lo que está más allá, es más un proceso de crear vínculos. Cuando hay menos vínculos, puede que tengas una idea o un sentimiento de separación, tú sabes, te sientes separado de los demás, y te sientes separado de la naturaleza, la naturaleza más bien es un conjunto de “objetos” que están afuera, como si fuera un segundo mundo de “objetos”, no una realidad “viviente”.

Incluso algunas personas … se ven a sí mismas como objetos, como robots que se comportan de una cierta manera, pero no como personas con las que interactuamos.

Y la misma cosa con nosotros mismos, incluso nosotros mismos no podemos realmente …. Hacemos nuestro trabajo, hacemos nuestras cosas, con nuestras rutinas. Pero realmente nos estamos considerando como “sujetos” vivientes? como tales?

Hay cuatro dimensiones, y tú puedes empezar por cualquiera de estas dimensiones.

Si eres alguien que ha crecido en un entorno muy natural, quizás tu primer diálogo empiece con la naturaleza. Algunas personas son pastores y están mucho tiempo solos en las montañas. Entonces probablemente para ellos el primer tipo de diálogo que empezarían sería más bien con la naturaleza.

Para personas como yo, que soy más una persona de ciudad, es un desafío mayor al principio, tú sabes. Pero el punto importante para mí es que todas estas dimensiones están siempre ahí. En el momento en que empezamos a abrir una de estas dimensiones, a dialogar con una de estas dimensiones, poco a poco empezamos a darnos cuenta cómo las cosas están mucho, mucho, mucho más unidas de lo que nunca esperamos.

La vida no es un vacío a ser llenado, es una plenitud a ser descubierta. El “otro” no es el vacío a ser llenado. Es una plenitud a ser descubierta.

No es que …. Siempre es fácil decirle a alguien que vea algo que no tiene, que no tiene esto o no tiene esto otro, y construir una imagen que es una versión inferior de ti mismo. Pero ellos pueden hacer la misma cosa, porque desde su punto de vista, tú no tienes esto o no tienes esto otro ni lo de más allá, y así sucesivamente.

No sería más interesante, en lugar de empezar a llenar al otro con tus propias proyecciones, sólo escuchar, abrirte y luego quizás descubrir la plenitud que es el otro?

Simplemente empecé a darme cuenta de que nuestras vidas, hablando en términos generales, muy frecuentemente las vivimos como un vacío a ser llenado.

Tú sabes, todos sentimos que tenemos que tener un cierto estatus social, y sentimos eso en un nivel psicológico, queremos lograr ciertas cosas y alcanzar un nivel económico, lo que está muy bien, mientras no sea algo que necesitemos para llenar nuestras vidas, y en el momento en que nos atrevamos quizás a dar un pequeño paso hacia atrás, puede que encontremos que la vida es realmente muy abundante y que bien pueden todas estas cosas empezar a pasar sin que necesitemos empujar con tanta fuerza.

La plenitud significa empezar a darnos cuenta de todas las relaciones por las que estamos unidos, a través de nuestro ser.

Así como tienes un cuerpo físico, tal como lo considera la ciencia occidental moderna, somo realmente hijos de las estrellas. Quiero decir que …. todos los elementos de los que estamos hechos han sido hechos en las estrellas, así que tenemos de hecho una relación con ellas.

Así que tenemos esta dimensión fisiológica, pero también tenemos nuestras emociones, nuestros sentimientos, tenemos nuestros pensamientos; y en todas esas diferentes dimensiones estamos todos interconectados.

Por medio de la contemplación de la naturaleza exterior, que percibimos como estando afuera,    establecemos de hecho una relación, una en la que en un nivel externo puede conducirnos a este sentimiento de que no deberíamos preocuparnos por el medioambiente porque sea nuestra  obligación, sino por su belleza. Y así, establecemos esa relación con la naturaleza exterior.

Pero al mismo tiempo, al contemplar la naturaleza exterior de hecho nos conectamos con nuestra naturaleza interior. Puedes usar el término “ecológico”, pero yo simplemente diría que es nuestra naturaleza interior. Aquello de que se trata la vida.

Tú eres parte de la naturaleza.

Cuando digo “naturaleza” … tú sabes que existe la naturaleza, y que la naturaleza es la naturaleza visible que observamos. Y luego está la naturaleza en el sentido de, llamémoslo así, el planeta como un todo. Y el sistema solar y las galaxias, y los multiversos de los que se habla ahora … todo eso es parte de este otro concepto más amplio.

Realmente se va uniendo, al crear vínculos donde no los veíamos, vínculos donde había separación, poco a poco hasta ver que las cosas están mucho más conectadas, lo cual es muy importante en el pensamiento ecologista, empiezas a entrar en estos enfoques más holísticos porque te das cuenta que no puedes simplemente cortar las cosas en pedazos, porque siempre están relacionadas y cada vez que cambias o afectas algo, siempre tendrá un efecto en la totalidad.

Si empiezas a practicar Qi Gong, si empiezas a practicar cualquier movimiento, hazlo con tu cuerpo relajado, tomándole el gusto a lo que estás haciendo, quizás haciéndolo despacio, y haciéndolo conscientemente. Poco a poco lo que vas a empezar a sentir es lo que los chinos frecuentemente denominan Qi[5], que es “energía”.

Nuevamente lo que es experiencial, una sensación que puedes tener al inicio, es un poco de hormigueo en los dedos, o bien puedes sentir algo de calor que empieza a aparecer, y luego si continúas, en algún punto puedes sentirlo más en tu interior, como una sensación magnética. Algunas veces puedes tener una sensación como de electricidad, simplemente permaneciendo sentado y observando tu respiración … De hecho, incluso si sólo haces esto pero lo haces todos los días, y lo haces por un par de horas cada día, y así una y otra vez, al comienzo vas a estar más en un nivel psicológico. Estarás sólo pensando sobre esto y sobre lo otro. Pero más adelante, en algún momento, cuando estas cosas empiecen a decantarse un poco más, tú, como un vaso de vidrio con agua que se mezcla y después empieza a decantarse, empezarás a sentirte más claro y más transparente. Cuando esta etapa empieza a ocurrir, las cosas empiezan a circular por tu cuerpo, eso es básicamente todo lo que es el Qi.

Estas cosas son muy reales.

Y esto me lleva a la reacción a esta experiencia. La cultura en la que vivimos, lo digo bien, la cultura de ciudad, tú sabes, somos una sociedad tecnologizada, embota muchas de nuestras experiencias.

Si tú vives en la naturaleza, y “tienes que” vivir para sobrevivir en la naturaleza, tus sentidos están mucho más refinados que los sentidos que podemos tener quienes vivimos en las ciudades. Así que, en cierta manera, de nuevo hemos colonizado nuestra mente, e incluso ahora me sigo dando cuenta de cuan colonizada está mi mente.

Es un muy, muy gran proceso de aprendizaje también … porque empiezas a darte cuenta de que … tengo una inteligencia innata, mi cuerpo entiende ciertas cosas. Ok. Tienes que estar atento. No es que no tengas que hacer nada. Tienes que estar atento, tienes que tratar de escuchar,  tienes que practicar. No es que simplemente llegas y no haces nada. Y una vez que aprendes poco a poco a saber, a diferenciar entre lo que son tus ilusiones y tú, y qué cosas son reales, en aquello que sientes…

No somos dioses, no somos los dueños de la naturaleza, o los reyes de la naturaleza … no, sólo somos una parte de ella, una muy pequeña y humilde parte de ella.

Humildad … la importancia de la humildad.

Te reconoces a ti mismo como una maravilla del universo. Es fascinante. Y mientras más humilde te sientes, en cierta manera, más hermoso es todo.

Créditos

Voz De Tanya:

Gracias por escuchar!

Nordic by Nature podcast es creado gracias al apoyo del Ministerio Nórdico. Por favor ayúdanos compartiendo el link de este episodio con el hashtag #tracesofnorth y síguenos en Instagram en la cuenta @nordicbynaturepodcast. Nos gustaría escuchar tus pensamientos en nuestro podcast. Por favor escríbeme un email, a Tanya, a la dirección nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

También estamos en Patreon, si quieres apoyarnos con una donación para mantener la continuidad de estos podcasts y realizar una segunda serie. Búscanos en www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

Si estás interesado en conocer más acerca de “Mindfulness” y “Pensamiento Resiliente”, por favor lee acerca de los retiros en el Centro de Ajay Rastogi www.foundnature.org, y sigue a la “Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Facebook y a “Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Instagram.

Noor a Noor trabaja en Nature Conservation Egypt. Por favor búscalo en www.natureegypt.org. Puedes seguir a Noor en Twitter en @Nxoor.

Puedes seguir a Judith Schleicher en Twitter en @j_schleicher.

Puedes encontrar a Christoph Eberhard en su canal de Youtube “Dialogues For Change”, o en Twitter en @PeaceDialogues.

Sonidos diseñados por Diego Losa. Búscalo en diegolosa.blogspot.com.

[1] Agregado por el traductor.

[2] Postdoc: abreviación de Post Doctorada.

[3] Phd: Doctorado.

[4] Parece referirse a alguien que está presente en la conversación, durante la grabación.

[5] En español se pronuncia “chi”.

Episode 4: Tomas Björkman, ON TRANSFORMATION

Episode 4: ON TRANSFORMATION features the voice of Swedish social entrepreneur, Tomas Björkman. Tomas is a former investment banker and progressive thought leader, who is exploring how to create new spaces and places for co-creation, personal and societal transformation, and community development through conscious social development.

Tomas is the co-author of the book The Nordic Secret. He is a founding member of the Swedish youth association Protus for lifelonglearning and philosophical exploration. In 2016, he founded the Research Institute Perspectiva in London together with Jonathan Rowson – to inspire our political, academic and business leaders to examine real world problems with a deeper appreciation of the influence of our inner worlds.

In 2017, in partnership with the Norrsken foundation, Björkman launched the digital platform 29k to help people reconnect with themselves, like-minded people and what they value most in life. He has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014. He is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien or IVA.

Episode 4: Tomas Björkman ON TRANSFORMATION
Recorded Summer 2019

Tanya’s Voice

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today, inspired by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

In this episode, On Transformation, we have one guest, Swedish social entrepreneur, and co-author of the The Nordic Secret, Tomas  Björkman.

After leaving the world of finance, Tomas established a Foundation out on a beautiful island in the Stockholm Archipelago. The Foundation has the sole purpose of facilitating sustainable social transformation, by nurturing the connections between personal and community development.

Tomas is also the co-founder of the London based Research Institute Perspectiva, and he has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014.

Tomas Björkman

So, I’m Tomas Bjorkman. I used to be a business entrepreneur started many different companies in I.T. property and then in banking.

I was the chairman of this banking group, and I left business more or less completely in 2006, perhaps right in the middle of my life.

And I started to think about what to do with the with the second half of my life.

And I came to the conclusion that I wanted to start a foundation in as in Sweden; a foundation that was built around the island of Ekskäret, which means the Oak Tree Island, because I have always felt that it was in nature where I could come in good connection with the deeper layers within myself. And as I wanted to make the purpose of my foundation the interrelationship between in their personal development and societal change. It was never it was very natural for me to decide to base my foundation out in nature and use nature as a catalyst. So 2008 was mostly when I took the decision, and 2009 or 10 or there about, my foundation was up and running.

After that I’ve also started a small research institute in London called the Perspectiva and a few co-live and co-work initiatives both in Stockholm and also in Berlin.

Tomas at the Emerge conference in Kiev, 2019

I also managed to write three books.

The first one is called the Market Myth which really which really summarizes my inside view of the market; how the market in many ways is a very good and efficient tool that helps create a lot of efficiency and value, but in other instances it’s not at all a good instrument to rely on when it comes to creating a human well-being and societal well-being. So that was The Market Myth.

My second book’s called The World We Create with an emphasis on ‘we.’ There are many, many more aspects of the world than we usually think about that are actually human-created. I would say that perhaps 90 percent of the world we live in today is a human invention and could be radically different. One example of that is of course the market which we tend to look at as a natural phenomenon, but which is really a human construct, and even the free market if there ever would be such a thing, could essentially be completely different than it is today.

And then my latest book, which is written together with a Danish philosopher and friend Linda Anderson, is called the Nordic Secret and it’s really about how the emphasis on inner personal development played an essential role for the Nordic countries to transition, a hundred years ago, from being the poorest non-democratic agrarian countries in Europe into, just a few generations later, the happiest most wealthy stable, industrial democracies in in the world.

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On Human Timelines

So the story I tell in my book The World We Create is really the story of a humanity from the very, very early stages, when we became humans more or less perhaps a couple of million years ago; the invention of fire, perhaps half a million years ago, to the start of culture perhaps 50,000 years ago, and the ongoing story about technological evolution.

And of course, humanity has taken many big steps and in the technological evolution, say the invention of agriculture, was something that completely changed the way we lived and related and we started to build huge cities and empires on the back of agriculture.

So technological development is nothing new, but today the speed of technological development is at such a rate that we’ve never seen anything like that before. And that creates a lot of problems, a lot of stress, but also of course it’s the technological development that we have to thank for all the for the beautiful lives that we can live today compared to our ancestors.

I sometimes say that even looking at my own grandparents, when they were teenagers, the world that they were living in that back then was such a poor and difficult world than the world that we are living in today. I don’t just mean the few percent of the human population in the rich countries, but really, I would say that perhaps even 90 percent of the world’s population today live in a world that my own grandparents when they were teenagers would just think was a fantastic dream world.

A meta-crisis

I think that the Enlightenment that was really the last time when we had a very substantial transition in both society and in worldview.

We have the Enlightenment and the scientific approach to the world to thank for this development, but also and at the same time I think that the many problems that we see today, many, many of the human made problems that humanity is facing today is actually now caused by exactly that same world view. This rationalistic scientific worldview.

You could you could say that all these different crises that we see today, of course we have the environmental crisis, which might even be the most urgent crisis we have today. But we also seem to be entering into a very severe political crisis. We certainly have health issues on a scale that we haven’t seen before. Not the least. The for example the obesity crisis in many parts of the world not just the rich West.

Now we have the opiate crisis in in the U.S.. We have everywhere in the West the psychological ill health crisis. And we have the inequality crisis that is both an increased inequality within countries but also between countries. And all of these crises, I think, are not different crises, they are actually symptoms on one underlying…which we could call.. a meta-crisis of our time.

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Three unprecedented challenges

Humanity has many times before gone through these radical transformations both a world view and of society. But this transformation that we are now going through is different from the previous ones in three major aspects. And the first one is the speed of transformation. The second one is the global impact on the environment. And the third one is the possibility of going from a world of scarcity to a world a world of abundance of well-being not necessarily material abundance but abundance of well-being.

And if I take a minute to unpack each of them so starting with the rate of change. So before say when we went from an agricultural society to an industrial society, we usually had the possibility to make that transition or adapt to these changes between generations. So perhaps my grandfather was a farmer and his father was a farmer. But then when the industrial revolution happened his sons and daughters might have given up farming and moved to the city, whereas my grandfather and grandmother could remain farmers for the rest of their life.

1. Technology

Now as technological technology shifts that fast that we actually in our own lifetime have to reinvent ourselves many times. And if you just think back on your own life even if you are not that old you could think about how many completely different technological worlds have you actually already lived in.

I remember a world before television. Then of course we had the introduction of mobile phones so the world before mobile phones and after mobile phones are completely different worlds and then of the personal computing and then Internet and then the smartphones.

And each of these technological steps have really been that that significant that you have had to both the reinvent your business and business models but also your private life to a large extent.

So, say that we now live in a world where we might have to reinvent our lives and our careers every 10 years. Soon that will be every fifth year and then it might be every second year. And this is not very far away. And of course, that will put a lot of psychological stress on us.

And again, this is the first time in humanity where we are sort of forced to live in this very rapidly changing environment and are our brains are not evolved for this. But then so far in the history of humanity we have had the possibility most of us to live in the world that we were actually born into.

2. Environmental Impact

So that’s the first one. that’s the second important shift is of course that we are moving from a world where we humans did not have a significant impact on the global climate. We might have exploited and overused our local natural resources but then we had the perhaps the possibility to move on and nature could heal. Now the impact there. We as humans have on climate is on a global scale.

And again our brains are not really evolved to see this.

And that is one of the problems that we have today that we do not in an emotional way perceive the way we are destroying nature. because of course during the environment of evolutionary abductees version of our are human systems of of feelings we did not impact nature in that way so that we did not have any reason to to develop these feelings. And now when we when we need them, we are we are lacking them. And that is why for many people this environmental catastrophe that we are entering into does not really move them emotionally.

3. From Scarcity to Abundance

So that’s the second shift and then the third one is that we have like any animals throughout evolution been living in a world of competition and of scarcity. And our minds are really hardwired for scarcity, but also are our economic systems and our society is as wired for scarcity. So, for the market for example to function you need to have a a limited supply that meets the demand.

So also the market needs scarcity, whereas hopefully with the technological development,
if we could just distribute all the wealth that are current economic and technological the system produces, if we distribute that wealth in a just fashion then we already today have enough wealth for all of us to be living very decent lives, and again lives that my grandparents when they were teenagers could only dream of.

Of course we will not all be able to drive cars and consume material goods at the level that we do in the West today but still there is enough for everyone to be able to live a life in an abundance of well-being.

That is of course good news if we are entering into a world where we as humans do not need to work 40 hours a week 40 years of our lives.

That should be essentially be very good news for everyone. But if you look upon this possibility through the lens of the labour market what you then see is the threat of massive unemployment so again we can’t approach a world of potential abundance with a mindset and social systems that are geared and developed around the concept of scarcity so these three major challenges technological shift environmental threat and the possibility to go from a from a world of scarcity to abundance.

That is for me really the challenge and the tipping point and the hurdle that humanity needs to pass through right now. And for that to happen in a good way I think that we need to both change, have a change of mind and a change of heart. And when I speak about a change of mind, I’m thinking about the world view that we have today, the Enlightenment worldview, the reductionist worldview, the scientific worldview.

We shouldn’t give that worldview up completely because it is very helpful especially in some situations, but it definitely needs to be complemented with other ways of looking at ourselves and society and the world.

We also need to have this change of heart which is an which is an inner change, which is the change of opening up to these greater possibilities of us humans. And you could talk about the development of the heart development of compassion the development of consciousness.

You can describe this in many different ways and one way to describe them is really our need to develop what some might call it transformative skills.

And that’s really the skill sets that we need both as individuals to be able to survive and to flourish in this very new world but that also is essential for humanity when it comes to navigating this great societal transition that I think that we are just starting to see and see the beginning of.

On transformative skills

So, if we should look a little bit deeper into these different groups or clusters of transformative skills. And of course, these transformative skills they are they are many different. And it’s a bit arbitrary how you would cluster them and put them under various headlines but one way to do it is to talk about the cluster of openness the cluster of perspectives seeking the cluster of sense making the cluster around our inner world and developing and coming into contact with our inner compass.

And then finally a cluster around compassion that could include things like empathy, compassion, and self-compassion and other forms.

If you study these clusters of skills from a scientific perspective,

the good news is that science has shown quite consistently that all of these skills can be developed. So, for example you are not born with a certain amount of empathy or openness or ability to seek different perspectives.

That’s the good news. They can be developed. The bad news is that they can’t be taught in in in the standard way of sort of school teaching. So, for example if you in your organization, have someone that need to develop more empathy or compassion.

You could not just send him or her on a three-day course in compassion and then they come back with a new amount of compassion developed. No doesn’t work like that.

So these transformative skills really need a form of learning that involves deeper psychological processes.

Many or most of them subconscious processes and some researchers call that form of learning that is necessary transformative learning it is learning that somehow transforms the way you see the world and how you generate emotions.

It’s somehow a transformation of your mind and of your or of your heart.

And again going back to the work of my foundation, we have found and I have personally found that being out in nature and be in close contact with nature actually can function very well as a catalyst for transformative learning.

In this rapidly changing world where we do not know which will be my next step in career how will I have to reinvent my myself, then a safe bet is always that we will be needing more and more of these transformative skills.

So if I would give it an advice to anyone who is right in the middle of their career and worried about the future, and their employability in the future, I would say if you look at developing these sorts of transformative deeper skills they will always be needed.

And the same for your children.

We do not know what the what the labour market will look like in 10 years, or even less in in in in in 20 years.

Here in Sweden the politicians are today talking about that we should all learn programming, but the experts tell me that programming is one of the first tasks that will be automated by our artificial intelligence.

I would say that these transformative skills these deeper skills they will always be in demand. So I so I would put a strong emphasis on them.

And again the last time we have this huge shift in worldview that was when we went from a religious dogmatic way of looking at the world to start to look at the world through a rational scientific worldview. And that was a drastic change in worldview.

And I think we are right now in the need of an equally drastic change. This time I don’t think it’s about giving up. The scientific world view I think it’s about complimenting the scientific worldview and perhaps integrating the insights of both the scientific worldview but also perhaps the religious or spiritual worldview that is putting much, much more emphasis on our inner world and our capacity for meaning making, and complement that also with the latest insights from perhaps the post-modern worldview which contains very important insights about the hidden power structures in society and the way that our human society is socially constructed.

5 Shifts in Worldview

So, I think going forward and the new worldview will contain many lenses through which we need to see the world. To be even more specific, I could talk about five shifts in worldview and I think that we need to consider.

The first one would be to go away from looking at the looking at ourselves as just isolated individuals. These utility maximizing individuals that economic theory will have us believe that we are to start realizing that we are all as humans very. very much more interconnected and interdependent on each other.

And that just maximizing my own happiness or my own utility is really not possible. My happiness is dependent on the happiness of people around myself. And we are all interconnected.

So that could be one shift in worldview, a second one could be to realize that in many, many cases it’s much, much more fruitful to look upon phenomenon in this world not as things, but as ongoing processes and to start to realize that most of the phenomena in our world are actually self-organizing, developing systems, and applying a systems view on the world, an evolutionary systems view on the world, could be very fruitful.

The next shift would be a in in the view of our mind and going away from again the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision making machine, to start realizing that our mind is actually also one of these constantly developing complex systems, that are under the development throughout our lives and that this development can either be facilitated or hindered by our environment. And then number four would be to go from a view of our society as more or less something given to start realizing that we are actually all co-creators of society and that society is something that is socially constructed by all of us.

And that whether we are aware of it or not we are either replicating or constructing society. And once we become aware of the fact that we are all co-creators of our social reality or our collective imaginary then of course that is very empowering but also giving us a huge responsibility in the ways that we create this social reality.

And then finally the fifth shift in worldview I think we’ll have to be around the view of our lives, and start realizing that ‘more’ is not necessarily better, and move away from a focus on development life and progress in mainly material terms of a material growth and material wealth to start realizing that inner matters like purpose and meaning becomes very, very important.

If you start to see the world from these new perspectives you start seeing a completely different world. And many of the political decisions and the structures and the struggles and the fights that we see today all of a sudden makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The Nordic Secret

So this development of these transformative skills that I was talking about has actually happened before. We have a very interesting historical case in the development of some of the Nordic countries and how we as societies went from being in the middle of the 1800’s, the most poor agrarian, non-democratic societies in in Europe, in Sweden actually 30 percent of the working population emigrated to the U.S. because of the severe conditions in Sweden back then.

And then we developed in just a few generations even before the Second World War. When all the Nordic countries were at the top of the list when it came to their happiest richest most stable industrial democracies.

And the question one could ask is of course what made this possible. And the interesting story that Leon and I tell in the Nordic secret is that we actually back then in the Nordic countries in all of the Nordic countries had very visionary intellectuals and politicians.

And they and they could see that change coming of course because they saw the industrial revolution happening in the UK and on the continent.

And they knew that urbanization and industrialization was coming to the Scandinavian countries. and they knew that in such situations of societal change it’s so easy for us humans to start looking for something to hold on to in the in the external world you want to find something to which you can put your hope.

And that could be a dogmatic religion, or it could be a strong authoritarian leader. It could be an Erdogan or a Trump, but these visionary politicians were firmly committed to building democratic societies.

And they knew that the only way to build strong democracies is to build them bottom up. And in order to do that you need a substantial part of the population to actually be able to hold the complexity of rapid social change without needing an external authority. You needed a large part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves to be in contact with their own in their compass in order to become conscious co-creators of the new world that wanted to be born.

The way they went about to create enabled co-creators, emancipated co-creators, was quite extraordinary. Because what they did was that they created what we could call ‘retreat centres.’

Retreat centres for inner growth, to develop transformative skills and other capacities.

So, at the turn of the last century. The year 1900 about. There were actually 100 of these centres created in Denmark, 75 in Norway, and 150 in Sweden, and in most other cases these centres were located out in nature and we’re using nature as a transformative catalysts in these processes.

Here young adults in their early ‘20s, and back then you had probably been working a few years before you went to one of these retreats sense of all of these retreats. And you could spend up to six months, later on with a full state subsidy, at these retreat centres, with the express aim of finding your inner compass, and of becoming enough grounded in yourself to be able to act as conscious co-creators of modernity.

In addition to developing your own inner compass, you were also given basic tools to create the civil civic society organizations, how to start an NGO, how to write a speech, how to write an article, how to argue for your case, and also you learned the latest technological development in the industry or in craft in order for you to be able to embrace the technological developments and not be afraid of them.

And when this was at its height almost a hundred years ago from now say around the 1920s or something like that then 10 percent of each young generation in Sweden actually had the opportunity to go to one of these half year long retreats.

And this was everywhere in the population. This was very much working class and farming part of the population that took part of some of these retreats. So everywhere in society you had people who had enough inner guidance and stability to be able to act as co-creators of modernity and the democratic society.

And still today in Scandinavia, we see the effects of this massive scale resources devoted to in their personal development. This Nordic secret is actually a secret also to ourselves, because we lost the notion of the importance of the inner world at around the time of the second world war, when we became very positivistic, very scientific, and we are more or less started to look at the inner world our subjectivity more as a problem than as a possibility.

So today even In our history books these centres are not described as centres for consciousness development or development of transformative skills that they are more or less described as adult educational centres and they still exists today and they are called Folk schools and they still receive a massive state funding.

But their activities are more in the realm of updating your or your basic schooling or doing crafts or cultural activities so one could ask oneself so. So, where did this understanding from this these early politicians and intellectuals in Scandinavia come from? 

How did they know the importance of our in their world and also the connection between the inner development and societal development?

And the answer there is that this understanding came from the German idealist philosophers that were writing at the beginning of the 1800’S. Philosophers like Goethe, Schiller, Von Humboldt, Hegel, and all of these philosophers. They were actually writing and reacting against the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision-making machine.

For example, John Locke or indeed Reneé Descartes. Our mind is actually an organic system that is embodied in the totality of our bodies. So our mind is not just in our brain our mind is embodied in the totality of our bodies and our mind is all so embedded and very dependent on the cultural environment.

And these views of our mind are actually now more and more being confirmed by both contemporary developmental psychology but also contemporary mind research.

Our minds are actually embodied in the totality of our bodies and dependent on and embedded in our culture. They also knew that a very important step in this lifelong development of our mind is the step that we that some of us take as adults, not all of us, in shifting from becoming external directed to becoming inner directed.

On democracy

Most people are still looking for an external authority. So far for democracy to really develop, you need to have a substantial part of the population, not necessarily a majority but a substantial part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves and be in contact with their own in a compass for democracy to work. And that is exactly what the politicians, the early Democratic politicians in Scandinavia and the intellectuals, took note of. And that is why they created these centres, these educational centres for transformative skills, for consciousness development and not the least developing their inner compass.

And it actually worked.

We have forgotten about this history and we are starting to lose this a little bit. Up until today we have forgotten about the importance of our inner world. And we are not any longer talking about consciousness development or lifelong development of our mind. We forgotten about these transformative skills and the importance to actually actively cultivate for example compassion.

But I see now in in Scandinavia a bit of an awakening and a bit of a real realization of this importance of the inner world and that is coming from perhaps an unexpected place; it’s coming from the corporate world actually, because as I speak with many people in the corporate world that are seriously concerned about the abilities of their organizations to keep up with this rapidly changing technological and social environment.

And this puts a lot of strains both on the corporations but also to all those individuals within the corporations, and quite a few H R departments are starting to realize that it is not just necessary to focus on the maturation and in the development of the top management.

But now a realization is starting to grow that in order for organizations to be adaptable enough and agile enough to constantly reinvent themselves in this rapidly changing technological and social environment, these skills are now skills that everyone in the organization needs to develop.

So then if this was so important in an in the corporate world and we started to realize this in the in the corporate world and in corporate literature and management consultant and in executive training why did we not at all talk about this in the same way and in society? Or societal development?

And I hope that these insights will spread rapidly out in society.

I think if not the least the environmental catastrophe that we are facing makes it absolutely necessary to again look at internal development and consciousness development on a societal scale, this becomes a major concern for not just corporations but for society.

And there I think, and there I hope that the Nordic countries again can play a leading role. So if I should say something about the uniqueness of of the Scandinavian model, I would use the analogy with with an organization and these new self-organizing organization. Some people talk about that in the new organization have to be a deliberately developmental organization. A deal where the organization actually supports the development of. All. Individuals within the organization to reach their full. Potential. And I think that the Scandinavian. Model. Originally. A. Hundred years ago the. Vision was. To create a deliberately developmental society. A DDR as. A society. Which. Actively supported. Every individual’s, every citizen’s possibility to reach their full potential.

And I think in the rapidly developing world we need to somehow come back to that it’s not just the the oh the ah tech companies that need to compete on an international market that needs to become Deliberately Developmental organizations. I think all nations now need to become deliberate deliberately developmental societies. And I think that that was really at the core of the Scandinavian model.

We can at least have a vision about what is a good process and how do we create that good process of moving forward.

And I think there is where we need to have the Democratic debate today and there is where we need to have a vision. And again I think part of that vision is already today creating a deliberative developmental society where as many people as possible in society can become and really feel liberated emancipated and empowered to be able to participate in the creation on the future world in the creation of the world that we together create.

Credits

Tanya’s voice:

You can find more information about Tomas Björkman and his foundation on his website

www.tomas-bjorkman.com

Nordic by Nature Podcast is an ImaginaryLife.net production. Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on info@imaginarylife.net

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Leadership, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram. 

Sound design is by Diego Losa. See diegolosa.blogspot.com

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Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE, Transcript

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In this episode ON INNER RESILIENCE, we hear four voices share how they maintain inner equilibrium. Firstly, we learn about nature-centred mindfulness practice from Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India. Then you will hear Egyptian conservationist Noor A Noor, who describes his own personal path into mindfulness – through his experiences of the 2011 Egyptian Uprising. Then Judith Schleicher explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago. Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.

Hashtags to copy: tracesofnorth, Deep ecology, Arne Naess, arnenaess, deepecology, ajayrastogi, nooranoor, judithschleicher, christopheberhard, ecology, conservation, resilience, UNSDG, The Nordics, decolonisation, transformation, bioregionaldevelopment, peace dialogue, sustainability, climate crisis, biodiversity, global challenges, society and culture, monikakucia, danielwahl, helenanorberg-hodge, satishKumar, extinctionrebellion, climateuprising, sitikasim, ajayrastogi, tanyakimgrassley, Sweden, swedishstyle, tomasbjörkman, karmaura, judithschleicher, universitycambridge, davidattenboroughhouse, cambridgeconservationists, egypt, ajayrastogi, mindfulness, foundnature, christopheberhard, peacedialogues

For translation into Spanish please click here.

Transcript episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE

Tanya’s Voice:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today, inspired by the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

Naess used the term ‘self-realization’ to indicate a kind of imagined perfection, a process, and a goal for both for the individual and for community. This podcast: On Inner-Resilience combines Naess’ idea of Self realisation with a view of human equilibrium, but it should only be used if it includes a sense of inner joy and benevolence to the world. It can be defined by a number of characteristics:

For example…

Number 1. Inner Resilience is meaningful and desirable, but it can sometimes be painful. It is not synonymous with comfort. It is a process of spiritual maturity, where a person acts more consistently from themselves as a whole.

Number 2. Inner Resilience is a continuous process. It can be achieved through knowledge and learning, but it demands a consistent practice that includes the cultivating, communicating and sharing of compassionate values.

Number 3. Inner Resilience evolves new types of skills that are needed for transformation; including Empathy, Respect, Humility, Consensus-building, and Co-creation.

Number 4. We are constantly changing and cannot be separated from the planetary processes that we are part of. Our own health and wellbeing cannot exist at the expense of others, nor the biological or cultural diversity that is the nature of life.

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Ajay Rastogi will begin by introducing the secular, nature-centred mindfulness practice, that he developed and teaches at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India.

Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.

Then you will hear the words of Noor A Noor, an Egyptian conservationist at the University of Cambridge who describes his own personal path into conservation and mindfulness – through his family, through music, and through the traumatic experiences of The 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

We will then hear Judith Schleicher. Judith explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago.

Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.

This podcast is designed for you to listen with headphones.
I hope you can make some time to simply enjoy listening.

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Ajay:

Hi my name is Ajay Rastogi.
And we live in the village of Majkhali. It’s in the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region.

And it’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi. And we overlook the high Himalayas. Many 6000 meters high peaks from maybe. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in the society which are needed for sustainability required that we also relook at the approach that we have taken so far in the environmental movements.

So, for that reason I was thinking what can be more transformative than a meditative practice, which can be done in nature.

Meditation is being considered as the methodology for inner transformation.

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The contemplation of nature is done in a natural surrounding.
It’s a multi-sensory experience.

It helps because we are a biological organism and, therefore we have an inherent drive to connect with nature. It’s kind of we are genetically wired, so it is not that abstract as many people find many other meditative practices to be. So, it is a good beginning.

People can begin with it and then get to deeper levels of meditation whichever part they want to follow. But meditation in nature contemplation of nature is definitely an approach which can be done on a daily basis and it leads to that level of tranquillity and gives us the benefits of the meditation the compassion the kindness and the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.

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At about 23rd minute a tranquillity factor causes deeper trigger or physiological relaxation. Which brings the body and the internal chemistry, in a much more regulatory and balanced way.

That’s called the relaxation response, and that’s what we are trying to achieve, also at the physiological level besides the psychic and other benefits, that the meditation will bring.

So, as we sit and observe with a soft gaze

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One may not have access to such landscapes so it can be done indoors.
And it can be done with very simple objects of nature, then following the three steps of native contemplation that we have designed.

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So the three steps simple three steps is observe nature with a soft gaze except with gentle detachment and send love with sympathetic attention.

Observe nature with a soft gaze, we accept the gentle detachment remaining. Not interested in finding details. Of course, the mind would wander here and there but as soon as we realized that we have gone further and drifted we can come back to observe nature with a soft gaze.

One additional element which is a very important element of Need contemplation practice is to let go and this happens by just as we sit down and begin our contemplation, we send love with sympathetic attention, we just remind ourselves of the gratitude the feeling of gratitude. And then we sit, observe softly with a gaze, and continue a gentle detachment.

The let go is not to make any judgment about where we are What are we doing. And this is a step which is a transcendental in nature and therefore it is very therefore itself a fundamental aspect of the practice that we are able to somehow transcend this call of judgment and thinking mind at least for a little while.

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Noor A Noor:

My name is Noor Noor. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian doing a masters in Conservation Leadership. Before coming to Cambridge, I spent the last 7 years managing Nature Conservation Egypt which is an NGO, working on the conservation of habitat species and local communities.

Growing up I I was a child of the city. My parents Were very active for social justice and for political rights and economic rights. However, they didn’t bring me into nature… it wasn’t part of my upbringing.

In 2011, Egypt saw one of its most incredible yet traumatic uprisings where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians went to the street to call for bread, freedom, and social justice. And obviously everything that stems from those three components.

As a result significant changes came about some of them were for the better but lots of them were for the worse. We were met with huge violence. Met with huge violence from the people that were in charge at the time specifically the armed forces or the army.

There was constant conflict between protesters that are calling for a complete transition to a more democratic,

Human rights-oriented government. And as a result…There was heavy persecution and Egyptians still remain heavily persecuted by the state.

Throughout 2011, myself as well as hundreds of thousands of other Egyptians who were taking part in these demonstrations, had to run for their lives. More than enough times.

To realize that that that life isn’t really as it seems once you’ve actually had to run for your life.

I had went from always being prepared to sacrifice myself for the cause to realizing that I am actually more useful let’s say, if I try to survive, and part of that realisation came the by spending time and nature for the first time.

I was spending a significant amount of time in nature and learning about nature and teaching nature as well as conserving nature as a part of my new jobs that I had assumed in 2012 and by spending more time in nature.

By understanding nature more I ended up understanding myself more. Bit by bit I ended up encountering mindfulness.

Which at the beginning I hated as a term because I felt it was very counter intuitive. The more I read up into mindfulness the more it really resonated. On a theoretical level, on a political level, and on a personal level. By spending time in nature by understanding how it works, by letting oneself be inspired and be healed by nature; That in itself is a mindful process.

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Essentially one had encountered so much physical and emotional trauma in that one year whether inflicted upon myself or even worse seeing it inflicted on those that I cared about or even those that I did not know. But we share the common political ground. Accumulated traumas from that still are carried by myself as well as thousands of others to this day.

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There’s no romanticisation of revolution there’s no romanticisation of Conflict and uprising. But I am absolutely grateful… because of how I ended up having to respond to these traumas.….. even politically How to better see how we can…be better as a holistically as a planet…. Get through the inevitable crises that we are facing and will continue to face at an exponential rate in the future.After the 2011 uprisings I was adamant on working in the field and I ended up getting a job managing an NGO working in nature conservation as well as working with a company that does educational environmental tourism and it’s a company called Dima. It made me aware of certain dimensions relating to our survival to relating to sustainability relating to the battles that we are trying to fight for justice.

I realized the importance of of Nature, and of the natural resources that we depend on.
What many people are realizing now is that all political and economic and even social dynamics relating to us as a species to us humans as a species are directly or indirectly related to our relationship with surrounding nature. The fact that we continue to separate ourselves from the things that keep us alive. Starting from our food all the way to even the air that we breathe in the oxygen that comes from that comes from other living beings and other habitats on this planet.

Our separating ourselves from the nature we depend on, is at the heart of some of the existing conflict over resources, as well as the trajectory that we’re taking towards the collapse of the systems that support us.
Political ecologies is excellent as a term in encompassing this. It says that…Whenever we look at nature and its resources, we need to think about the political, social and economic structures that govern nature. If we’re going to talk about its conservation. 

And at the same time, if we’re looking at development; We need to think about the ecological processes that support. These social processes.
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To be honest, we’re all implicated.

The phone that I’m using now to speak with you. About sustainability the components that were used to make this phone are not sustainable. The coffee that I am sipping on at the moment is is it supposed to be ethically sourced but in the end, it’s probably come from somewhere very far away. That in itself, we’ve become so dependent on these things.

Back when I was 15, my father was imprisoned by the Mubarak regime. Or The regime that was in power in Egypt for 30 years. My father was sentenced to four five years in prison. At that time, I remember specific telling myself things like alright. You have a minute to feel whatever you want to feel

And then as soon as that minute’s done. Switch it off. Switch it off, go back continue about your day don’t revel in your head, just move along and I remember being 15 and telling myself these things. And while obviously that might not always be the best solution. I remember forcing myself to just to be able to disconnect from the anxieties and the fears in my head.

To be able to just continue to function. Ten years later when I found myself…. Acknowledging my anxiety for the first time, I realized that I’ve been breathing wrong my entire life. We’re not taught how to breathe when we’re kids no one tells you to breathe through your stomach when you’re a child.

In my last year of university I was I was studying political science and law and then my last year I got involved in a music project that made music out of garbage.

So recycling and upcycling waste to make music and to raise environmental and social and political awareness using it using music as as a means. That music project introduced me to the people that I ended up working with for the years to come.

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Judith Schleicher

I’m Judith Schleicher. I am a postdoc in the Geography department here in the University of Cambridge and I also work together currently as a consultant with U.N. Environment world conservation monitoring centre. I’ve always been interested in tropical forests the diversity the people who live there the cultural diversity biodiversity everything and trying to protect that and also understanding people and the relationship with them better. When I was doing my PhD I started meditating a lot and then when there was opportunity to work on the relationship between nature and people after my page that just seemed to bring all these things together.

Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.

From this location what we can see is concrete and a parking lot. And you know if that’s the environment people grow up and we even get less connected with age I think that not only has a very negative impact on our passive development in our personal growth and our society but it also means that in the future we might care even less about what we have left. I think what is particularly important is that we also look inwards we need to think about ourselves our own well-being and work on making the changes from within. And then we can make changes beyond that. And so I think those are the kind of things that really need to be part of our education system how we grow up. What are the things that really matter in our lives.

Children spend so much time in schools being taught so many things that are just involving our intellect in terms of thinking about it but they don’t really think about how do we build emotional resilience how do we think about our wellbeing how do we think about it own mindset. Really taking care of that is so important. And if we could make that a fundamental part of a person’s life when they grow up from where they grew up I think that would be a huge positive change.

I would love to see for example mindfulness a meditation being part of the normal school curriculum and then people start thinking about what is it that matters in my life. And what are the things that are important.

We really internalize all of those things and then we can also have the discussion at a much broader scale. As a community scale to society scale as a national scale of which the direction we want to go into. But it really has to start at a personal level. So. Many people are not familiar with it and they don’t really know what it means. They might as you said for example Buddhism whether they have religious connotations when it doesn’t have to.

It can be secular. Nothing to do with religion. Spiritual doesn’t mean that you have to but even one specific religion. It can be really challenging to work in conservation because you’re always fighting an uphill battle. Basically you’re always confronted with bad news and also the way often we talk about it is in a very negative way.

I was improving my fieldwork and lots of things were going wrong. And then my friend said who’s been meditating for a very long time. She’d started when she was a teenager and she said oh there’s this meditation course. Ten-day silent course coming up, and in Lima where are, It’s like why didn’t you just do it? I was like sure I’d never thought about what meditation is or anything.

So I was like Sure. And then one night I said I was like Why would I do that.

I just did this 10-day course without knowing anything about it. I didn’t know what meditation was. I had no idea what I would get myself into. I was amazing experience life changing. I mean in a 10 day course you go through so many things and ups and downs but every minute you put into it it’s worth it. I had so many positives but the strongest one was definitely this sense of inner peace that I’ve never felt that way before.

Not only just knowing but really feeling that happiness or contentment has nothing to do with anything external.

And of course, that’s things that we might intellectually know but really feeling it is a very different things and experiencing it. You know of course there is always daily struggles of internalizing it. And that will continue that knowing that is a very big gift to experience. I’ve done a few of these courses and every time at the end it’s just so nice when you haven’t talked for while.

For 10 days as your mind is just so focussed and so clear and you realize how we are impacted by all this chatter and so much information being fed into our brain all the time you really realize what the impact is. As soon as you start talking your mind just goes crazy.

One very important first step is awareness. So you know when you’re saying that you feel you become more sensitive but maybe you’ve just become aware of something that was always there as just that before you weren’t aware of it. So that means you couldn’t look after your body in the way that it needed attention maybe otherwise. You know. The same processes might have gone on is just that you wouldn’t have been aware of the impact it had on you. I mean I can totally connect with what you said about nature providing that space where you can develop all these things. Many of the things that I experienced through meditation of I guess they just came naturally in nature before. If I sit in a forest which is the environment I love, I feel never alone. I can feel alone be surrounded by lots of people are being in a non-natural environment. But I will not feel alone if I’m just in a forest and just being. Whereas in our society we always tool we have to be productive. We have to be doing we have to be doing things. It’s much more healthy to move away from that at least some time and just be be it with nature or be it with other people. And that is what ultimately creates contentment and happiness from within. And Nature provides the natural space for doing that.

Your mind is just in the moment.

The meditation course where I was helping over the years, so I was in the kitchen we were cooking 430 140 people. Which is it can be very demanding because you know cooking for so many people and very strict, strict time slots is probably what many people would call a stressful environment with people I’ve never worked together with but they were all meditators and they’re all aware or at least much more conscious about these things. And it was not only a work very well it was also good fun and we were great teamwork. So, if I could translate that into my day to day world everyone would be amazing.

I started meditation 7 years ago. I meditate daily at least one hour a day sometimes more. I mean it makes a huge difference to my day to day life. And it’s also made a huge difference of how I probably think about conservation.

Before I started meditating all that gloom and doom rhetoric sometimes can be really disempowering and make you feel just really difficult to think that you can really make a positive change in what if you don’t.

So that is very difficult sometimes to grasp. With meditation I also had a sense that you know we’ll be fine eventually, and nature will be able to cope whether humans were kept to cope. That’s a different question. I guess yes it made me more peaceful from within that I can do whatever I can in my possibilities to fight for a more just and more environmentally sustainable world. But I can be fine with whatever happens.

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Christoph Eberhard

I’m Christopher Eberhard… I’m Austrian. Now, I’m based in the South of France, Archachon.

To put it in a nutshell like my whole life has been devoted to, um, I would say a quest for peace, or harmony; a living harmony.

So, it manifested on the one hand, let’s say more social sciences. I had a career as a legal anthropologist, between Law and Social Sciences, trying to see how we could live together in a more dialogical way, understanding each other and harmonizing each other a bit better.

And then the second aspect was like dialogue with inner dialogue and with nature and that especially expressed itself in my interest with the traditional arts especially the Chinese Internal arts and Indian arts like yoga.

For me like this inner resilience would be in this question of dialogue.

Dialogue is listening but it’s not only listening with your ears it’s listening with your heart. And even more than that is listening with your soul.

We can experience that in our very, very day to day experience it’s just like taking some time not starting to speak immediately taking five minutes or 10 minutes just to harmonize, before doing something.

Just letting the mind settle, being rooted in a certain way.

Sometimes people don’t want to do it, they say they don’t have time to do it, but actually just this sitting quietly, calmly, in a certain way completely changes the whole atmosphere.

And if you do it, you would find that people are much, much, more open to real dialogues, to listening to each other, to really sharing their experiences, than if you do it without that quiet time at the beginning.

So, you start to dialogue with another human being. Really dialogue, in the sense that you really wanted to listen to that person, and you, you let yourself be challenged, by maybe the world view that he presents or the sensitivity that he’s expressing.

While it may on the one hand be enriching, but sometimes it may be very shocking. You know. We, we may not really want to hear certain things, or we do not really hear certain things until we have heard them back a hundred times and then suddenly you’re like “Oh wow. There was something deeper than I thought.”

So when this happens it’s, it’s a kind of a challenge, also, some that leads to a second kind of dialogue which is the dialogue with which I call with ‘oneself;’ you start to become aware of what our, let’s call it invisible horizon of action and living things.

And for that actually we need the dialogue with others, because otherwise we can never become aware of our own personal window. And then when you start to deepen this dialogue with others and yourself by listening more to yourself. You also start to realize that actually you are connected to the nature all around you.

That in a certain way, once the sensitivity to listening has been opened up, well, you start to listen to the trees to the sun then the flowers to the to the clouds, in a certain way they talk to you.

If you want to listen, first you have to empty yourself, and then everything come and talks to you. The dialogical aspect of nature which starts to unfold. So, it’s a dialogue with oneself, with the others with the nature. And then there’s this other dimension which I call like beyond, whatever you want to call it, you know, these things which are beyond words and you cannot really express it, but which is also there.

Sometimes, when we talk about inner, we kind of separated or distinguish it from outer. For me, I would rather say that the experience of also entering in yourself, or entering in dialogue with nature or with the beyond, is more a process of creating links, where there was more links you may have had an idea of a feeling of separation, you know, you’re feeling separate from the others, and you’re feeling separate from nature.

Nature is more objects which are outside; the second world of objects. It’s not living reality.

Even some people… who just see them like objects and some robots which there, which behave in a certain way, but they’re not really persons that we interact with.

And the same thing with ourselves, and we may even ourselves not really…. We do our work. We do our things when our routines. But are we really considering ourselves as another living subject, as such.

There’s four dimensions —and you can start from any of these dimensions.

If you’re somebody who has been growing up in a very natural surrounding, maybe your first dialogue starts with nature. Some people they’re shepherds and they spend lots of time alone for months in the mountains. So probably for them the first kind of dialogue which would start is more like a dialogue with nature, and then the dialogues may come.

For people like me and more like a city person. And so, it’s more confronted with people at the beginning, you know. But the important point is to say that for me all these dimensions are always there. At the moment when we start to open one of these dimensions, dialogue of one of these dimensions, little by little we start to realize how everything is much, much, much more linked together than we ever expected.

It’s not just it’s always easy to go someone see what they don’t have is they don’t have that they don’t have that they don’t have that, and just construct them like the inferior version of yourself, but they can do the same thing, because from their point of view, you don’t have this and don’t have that and don’t have that and so on.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting, instead of trying to fill the other with your own projections, and your own ideas, to just listen, open up and then maybe discover all the plenitude the ‘other’ is. I just started to realize that our lives generally speaking sometimes very often a void to be filled.

You know, we, feel that we have to have a certain social status and we feel that we have to on a psychological level we want to achieve certain things and economical level, which is wonderful, as long as it is not something we just do because we need to fill our lives, and at the moment that we dare to maybe step back a little we may just find out that life is actually very rich and well these things may be happening without us trying to push too hard.

Plenitude means you start to realize all the relationships that you, you are knotting together, through your being.

Just like you have a physical body, considering like a modern western science, we are actually really children of the stars. I mean that is …all the elements that we made of are made in the stars, so we have actually a relationship with them.

So, we have this physiological level, but then we have our emotions, we have our feelings, we have our thoughts; in all these different dimensions are all interlinked. By the contemplation of outside nature, which we perceive as being outside, we actually establish a relationship, one which on the outside level may lead us to this feeling that we that we should not care for the environment because it’s our duty, but because of its beauty. And so, we establish that relationship with the outside nature.

But at the same time, contemplating the outside nature also actually refers us back to our inside nature. You can use the term ecological, but I would just say our, inner nature. What life is about. (laugh)

You are part of nature.

When I say nature, you know there’s nature, and nature there’s the visible nature that we see. And then there’s nature in the sense of let’s call what is the whole planet. And the solar system and the galaxies, and now they are talking about multiverses — all this is part of this other broader concept.

It really links, creating links where we didn’t see links, links where there was separation, little by little to see that things are so much linked, which is very important in the ecological thinking, you start to enter into this more holistic approaches to things because you realize you cannot just cut things into pieces, they’re always related and whenever you change something, someone always has an effect on the whole.

If you start practicing any Qi Gong, if you start practicing any movement, which you will do with the relaxed body, tasting what you’re doing, maybe doing it slowly, and doing it with awareness. Little by little what you will start to feel is what the Chinese often call Qi which is energy.

Again which is experiential, the one feeling that you may have at the beginning, is you will feel some tingling in the fingers or you may feel some warmth that will come, and then if you continue at some point you may feel it more inside, kind of a magnetic feeling. Sometimes you get somewhat like electric feel to it, just the quiet sitting and watching your breath…. Actually, even if you just do this but like you do it every day, and you do it for a couple of hours every day, and so on and so on– at the beginning you are very much in the psychological state. You’re just thinking of this and thinking of that.

And then at the moment, when these things start to settle a little –you like a glass, water and mixed and then it settles and becomes more clear and more transparent. When that stage starts to happen, things start to circulate in your body, that’s like basically what is the whole Qi.

These things are very real.

Christoph at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.

So that brings me to the reaction to the experience. The culture we live in, now I’m talking well, city culture, you know like a technological society. It blunts us to a lot of our experiences.

If you live in nature, and you have to live to survive in with nature. Your senses are much much more refined than the kind of senses that we may have like you know living in the cities. So in a certain way we again we colonised our minds and even now I still realise how much my mind is colonised

Very, very, big learning process also…..because you start to realize I do have an innate intelligence, my body does understand certain things, OK. You have to put the awareness. It’s not that you don’t have to do anything. You have to put the awareness. You have to try to listen. You have to practice. It’s not just coming like if you don’t do anything. And once you know little by little to learn, to make the difference between what is your illusions, and your and what things are real, in those what you feel.

We are not gods, we are not the masters of nature, or the kings of nature, no we are just a part of it, a very humble tiny part it.

Humility, the importance of humility.

You recognize yourself as a wonder of the universe. It’s amazing. And the more humble you become, in a certain way, the more beautiful the whole thing becomes.

CREDITS

Tanya’s Voice:

Thank you for listening!

Nordic by Nature Podcast is an ImaginaryLife.net production created with the support of the Nordic Ministries Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Thinking, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Noor A Noor worked for Nature Conservation Egypt. Please see  www.natureegypt.org. You can follow Noor on Twitter, @Nxoor.

You can follow Judith Schleicher on twitter @j_schleicher (spell it out). You can find Christoph Eberhard’s through his youtube channel, Dialogues for Change or Twitter, @PeaceDialogues.

Sound designed by Diego Losa. See diegolosa.blogspot.com

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Christoph Eberhard, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Christoph Eberhard is a bilingual Austrian living in France; a specialist in the anthropology of law and author of the book Human Rights and Intercultural dialogue. Eberhard is also a TaiChi and QiGong Teacher. He says he is on a journey of peace, and that means dialogue: dialogue with oneself, with others, with our environment and the greater beyond. His motto is “Life is not a void to be filled. It is a world of abundance, or “plenitude,” waiting to be discovered.”

You can find Christoph Eberhard’s through his youtube channel, Dialogues for Change or Twitter, @PeaceDialogues.

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Transcript, Christoph Eberhard, ON INNER RESILIENCE

I’m Christopher Eberhard… I’m Austrian. Now, I’m based in the South of France, Archachon.

To put it in a nutshell like my whole life has been devoted to, um, I would say a quest for peace, or harmony; a living harmony.

So, it manifested on the one hand, let’s say more social sciences. I had a career as a legal anthropologist, between Law and Social Sciences, trying to see how we could live together in a more dialogical way, understanding each other and harmonising each other a bit better.

And then the second aspect was like dialogue with inner dialogue and with nature and that especially expressed itself in my interest with the traditional arts especially the Chinese Internal arts and Indian arts like yoga.

For me like this inner resilience would be in this question of dialogue.

Dialogue is listening but it’s not only listening with your ears it’s listening with your heart. And even more than that is listening with your soul. We can experience that in our very, very day to day experience it’s just like taking some time not starting to speak immediately taking five minutes or 10 minutes just to harmonise, before doing something.

Just letting the mind settle, being rooted in a certain way.

Sometimes people don’t want to do it, they say they don’t have time to do it, but actually just this sitting quietly, calmly, in a certain way completely changes the whole atmosphere.

And if you do it, you would find that people are much, much, more open to real dialogues, to listening to each other, to really sharing their experiences, than if you do it without that quiet time at the beginning. So, you start to dialogue with another human being. Really dialogue, in the sense that you really wanted to listen to that person, and you, you let yourself be challenged, by maybe the world view that he presents or the sensitivity that he’s expressing.

While it may on the one hand be enriching, but sometimes it may be very shocking. You know. We, we may not really want to hear certain things, or we do not really hear certain things until we have heard them back a hundred times and then suddenly you’re like “Oh wow. There was something deeper than I thought.”

So when this happens it’s, it’s a kind of a challenge, also, some that leads to a second kind of dialogue which is the dialogue with which I call with ‘oneself;’ you start to become aware of what our, let’s call it invisible horizon of action and living things.

And for that actually we need the dialogue with others, because otherwise we can never become aware of our own personal window. And then when you start to deepen this dialogue with others and yourself by listening more to yourself. You also start to realise that actually you are connected to the nature all around you.

That in a certain way, once the sensitivity to listening has been opened up, well, you start to listen to the trees to the sun then the flowers to the to the clouds, in a certain way they talk to you.

If you want to listen, first you have to empty yourself, and then everything come and talks to you. The dialogical aspect of nature which starts to unfold. So, it’s a dialogue with oneself, with the others with the nature. And then there’s this other dimension which I call like beyond, whatever you want to call it, you know, these things which are beyond words and you cannot really express it, but which is also there.

Sometimes, when we talk about inner, we kind of separated or distinguish it from outer. For me, I would rather say that the experience of also entering in yourself, or entering in dialogue with nature or with the beyond, is more a process of creating links, where there was more links you may have had an idea of a feeling of separation, you know, you’re feeling separate from the others, and you’re feeling separate from nature.

Nature is more objects which are outside; the second world of objects. It’s not living reality. Even some people… who just see them like objects and some robots which there, which behave in a certain way, but they’re not really persons that we interact with.

And the same thing with ourselves, and we may even ourselves not really…. We do our work. We do our things when our routines. But are we really considering ourselves as another living subject, as such.

There’s four dimensions —and you can start from any of these dimensions.

If you’re somebody who has been growing up in a very natural surrounding, maybe your first dialogue starts with nature. Some people they’re shepherds and they spend lots of time alone for months in the mountains. So probably for them the first kind of dialogue which would start is more like a dialogue with nature, and then the dialogues may come.

For people like me and more like a city person. And so, it’s more confronted with people at the beginning, you know. But the important point is to say that for me all these dimensions are always there. At the moment when we start to open one of these dimensions, dialogue of one of these dimensions, little by little we start to realise how everything is much, much, much more linked together than we ever expected.

Life is not the void to be filled, it is a plenitude to be discovered. The ‘other’ is not the void to be filled. It’s a plenitude to be discovered.

It’s not just it’s always easy to go someone see what they don’t have is they don’t have that they don’t have that they don’t have that, and just construct them like the inferior version of yourself, but they can do the same thing, because from their point of view, you don’t have this and don’t have that and don’t have that and so on.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting, instead of trying to fill the other with your own projections, and your own ideas, to just listen, open up and then maybe discover all the plenitude the ‘other’ is. I just started to realise that our lives generally speaking sometimes very often a void to be filled.

You know, we, feel that we have to have a certain social status and we feel that we have to on a psychological level we want to achieve certain things and economical level, which is wonderful, as long as it is not something we just do because we need to fill our lives, and at the moment that we dare to maybe step back a little we may just find out that life is actually very rich and well these things may be happening without us trying to push too hard.  Plenitude means you start to realise all the relationships that you, you are knotting together, through your being.

Just like you have a physical body, considering like a modern western science, we are actually really children of the stars. I mean that is …all the elements that we made of are made in the stars, so we have actually a relationship with them.

So, we have this physiological level, but then we have our emotions, we have our feelings, we have our thoughts; in all these different dimensions are all interlinked.

By the contemplation of outside nature, which we perceive as being outside, we actually establish a relationship, one which on the outside level may lead us to this feeling that we that we should not care for the environment because it’s our duty, but because of its beauty. And so, we establish that relationship with the outside nature.

But at the same time, contemplating the outside nature also actually refers us back to our inside nature. You can use the term ecological, but I would just say our, inner nature. What life is about. (laugh)

You are part of nature.

When I say nature, you know there’s nature, and nature there’s the visible nature that we see. And then there’s nature in the sense of let’s call what is the whole planet. And the solar system and the galaxies, and now they are talking about multiverses — all this is part of this other broader concept.

It really links, creating links where we didn’t see links, links where there was separation, little by little to see that things are so much linked, which is very important in the ecological thinking, you start to enter into this more holistic approaches to things because you realise you cannot just cut things into pieces, they’re always related and whenever you change something, someone always has an effect on the whole. 

If you start practicing any Qi Gong, if you start practicing any movement, which you will do with the relaxed body, tasting what you’re doing, maybe doing it slowly, and doing it with awareness. Little by little what you will start to feel is what the Chinese often call Qi which is energy.

Again which is experiential, the one feeling that you may have at the beginning, is you will feel some tingling in the fingers or you may feel some warmth that will come, and then if you continue at some point you may feel it more inside, kind of a magnetic feeling. Sometimes you get somewhat like electric feel to it, just the quiet sitting and watching your breath…. Actually, even if you just do this but like you do it every day, and you do it for a couple of hours every day, and so on and so on– at the beginning you are very much in the psychological state. You’re just thinking of this and thinking of that.

And then at the moment, when these things start to settle a little –you like a glass, water and mixed and then it settles and becomes more clear and more transparent. When that stage starts to happen, things start to circulate in your body, that’s like basically what is the whole Qi.

These things are very real.

So that brings me to the reaction to the experience. The culture we live in, now I’m talking well, city culture, you know like a technological society. It blunts us to a lot of our experiences.

If you live in nature, and you have to live to survive in with nature. Your senses are much much more refined than the kind of senses that we may have like you know living in the cities. So in a certain way we again we colonised our minds and even now I still realise how much my mind is colonised

Very, very, big learning process also…..because you start to realise I do have an innate intelligence, my body does understand certain things, OK. You have to put the awareness. It’s not that you don’t have to do anything. You have to put the awareness. You have to try to listen. You have to practice. It’s not just coming like if you don’t do anything. And once you know little by little to learn, to make the difference between what is your illusions, and what things are real, in those what you feel.

We are not gods, we are not the masters of nature, or the kings of nature, no we are just a part of it, a very humble tiny part it.

Humility, the importance of humility.

You recognise yourself as a wonder of the universe. It’s amazing. And the more humble you become, in a certain way, the more beautiful the whole thing becomes.

END

Judith Schleicher, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Ajay Rastogi and I went to Cambridge University and had the honour to be shown around David Attenbourough House and the Depeartment of Geography by PhD fellow Judith Schleicher. Judith is part an active member of Extinction Rebellion, a growing movement that is demonstrating and campaigning for increased climate change awareness and action. She is also a regular meditator and helped us to hold a nature-centred mindfulness session and seminar at David Attenbourough House.

Judith’s work with UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre looks at the links between the environment, human wellbeing and poverty. The pursuit of human wellbeing is one of the primary goals for Society and is a key focus of the #SustainableDevelopmentGoals (#SDGs), adopted in 2015.

Transcript of Judith Schleicher, ON INNER RESILIENCE

I’m Judith Schleicher. I am a postdoc in the Geography department here in the University of Cambridge and I also work together currently as a consultant with U.N. Environment world conservation monitoring centre. I’ve always been interested in tropical forests the diversity the people who live there the cultural diversity biodiversity everything and trying to protect that and also understanding people and the relationship with them better.

When I was doing my PhD I started meditating a lot and then when there was opportunity to work on the relationship between nature and people after my page that just seemed to bring all these things together.

From this location what we can see is concrete and a parking lot. And you know if that’s the environment people grow up and we even get less connected with age I think that not only has a very negative impact on our passive development in our personal growth and our society but it also means that in the future we might care even less about what we have left. I think what is particularly important is that we also look inwards we need to think about ourselves our own well-being and work on making the changes from within. And then we can make changes beyond that. And so I think those are the kind of things that really need to be part of our education system how we grow up. What are the things that really matter in our lives.

Children spend so much time in schools being taught so many things that are just involving our intellect in terms of thinking about it but they don’t really think about how do we build emotional resilience how do we think about our wellbeing how do we think about it own mindset. Really taking care of that is so important. And if we could make that a fundamental part of a person’s life when they grow up from where they grew up I think that would be a huge positive change.

I would love to see for example mindfulness a meditation being part of the normal school curriculum and then people start thinking about what is it that matters in my life.

And what are the things that are important.

We really internalise all of those things and then we can also have the discussion at a much broader scale. As a community scale to society scale as a national scale of which the direction we want to go into. But it really has to start at a personal level. So. Many people are not familiar with it and they don’t really know what it means. They might as you said for example Buddhism whether they have religious connotations when it doesn’t have to.

It can be secular. Nothing to do with religion. Spiritual doesn’t mean that you have to but even one specific religion. It can be really challenging to work in conservation because you’re always fighting an uphill battle. Basically you’re always confronted with bad news and also the way often we talk about it is in a very negative way.

I was improving my fieldwork and lots of things were going wrong. And then my friend said who’s been meditating for a very long time. She’d started when she was a teenager and she said oh there’s this meditation course. Ten day silent course coming up, and in Lima where are, It’s like why didn’t you just do it? I was like sure I’d never thought about what meditation is or anything. So I was like Sure. And then one night I said I was like Why would I do that.

I just did this 10-day course without knowing anything about it. I didn’t know what meditation was. I had no idea what I would get myself into. I was amazing experience life changing. I mean in a 10 day course you go through so many things and ups and downs but every minute you put into it it’s worth it. I had so many positives but the strongest one was definitely this sense of inner peace that I’ve never felt that way before.

Not only just knowing but really feeling that happiness or contentment has nothing to do with anything external.

And of course, that’s things that we might intellectually know but really feeling it is a very different things and experiencing it. You know of course there is always daily struggles of internalising it. And that will continue that knowing that is a very big gift to experience. I’ve done a few of these courses and every time at the end it’s just so nice when you haven’t talked for while.

For 10 days as your mind is just so focussed and so clear and you realise how we are impacted by all this chatter and so much information being fed into our brain all the time you really realise what the impact is. As soon as you start talking your mind just goes crazy.

One very important first step is awareness. so you know when you’re saying that you feel you become more sensitive but maybe you’ve just become aware of something that was always there as just that before you weren’t aware of it. So that means you couldn’t look after your body in the way that it needed attention maybe otherwise. You know. The same processes might have gone on is just that you wouldn’t have been aware of the impact it had on you. I mean I can totally connect with what you said about nature providing that space where you can develop all these things. Many of the things that I experienced through meditation of I guess they just came naturally in nature before. If I sit in a forest which is the environment I love, I feel never alone. I can feel alone be surrounded by lots of people are being in a non-natural environment. But I will not feel alone if I’m just in a forest and just being. Whereas in our society we always tool we have to be productive. We have to be doing we have to be doing things. It’s much more healthy to move away from that at least some time and just be be it with nature or be it with other people. And that is what ultimately creates contentment and happiness from within. And Nature provides the natural space for doing that.

Your mind is just in the moment.

The meditation course where I was helping over the years, so I was in the kitchen we were cooking 430 140 people. Which is it can be very demanding because you know cooking for so many people and very strict, strict time slots is probably what many people would call a stressful environment with people I’ve never worked together with but they were all meditators and they’re all aware or at least much more conscious about these things. And it was not only a work very well it was also good fun and we were great teamwork. So, if I could translate that into my day to day world everyone would be amazing.

I started meditation 7 years ago. I meditate daily at least one hour a day sometimes more. I mean it makes a huge difference to my day to day life. And it’s also made a huge difference of how I probably think about conservation.

Before I started meditating all that gloom and doom rhetoric sometimes can be really disempowering and make you feel just really difficult to think that you can really make a positive change in what if you don’t.

So that is very difficult sometimes to grasp. With meditation I also had a sense that you know we’ll be fine eventually, and nature will be able to cope whether humans were kept to cope. That’s a different question. I guess yes it made me more peaceful from within that I can do whatever I can in my possibilities to fight for a more just and more environmentally sustainable world. But I can be fine with whatever happens.

 

Noor A Noor, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Noor A Noor was born in Egypt as a son of activists. He went on to study political science and #aw, but it was his love of the arts and his #activism as a musician raising awareness about waste through music made with recycled materials that lead him to a job with Nature Conservation Egypt. In 2011 Noor witnessed terrible violence during the Egyptian uprising. Two years later, trauma lead him to find out about the practice of mindfulness and nature immersion as proven modes of healing but also as a way of understanding the world around us.

Transcript, Noor A Noor, ON INNER RESILIENCE.

Growing up I I was a child of the city. My parents Were very active for social justice and for political rights and economic rights. However, they didn’t bring me into nature… it wasn’t part of my upbringing.

In 2011, Egypt saw one of its most incredible yet traumatic uprisings where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians went to the street to call for bread, freedom, and social justice. And obviously everything that stems from those three components.

As a result significant changes came about some of them were for the better but lots of them were for the worse. We were met with huge violence. Met with huge violence from the people that were in charge at the time specifically the armed forces or the army.

There was constant conflict between protesters that are calling for a complete transition to a more democratic, human rights-oriented government. And as a result…There was heavy persecution and Egyptians still remain heavily persecuted by the state.

Throughout 2011, myself as well as hundreds of thousands of other Egyptians who were taking part in these demonstrations, had to run for their lives. More than enough times.

To realise that that that life isn’t really as it seems once you’ve actually had to run for your life.

I had went from always being prepared to sacrifice myself for the cause to realising that I am actually more useful let’s say, if I try to survive, and part of that realisation came the by spending time and nature for the first time.

I was spending a significant amount of time in nature and learning about nature and teaching nature as well as conserving nature as a part of my new jobs that I had assumed in 2012 and by spending more time in nature.

By understanding nature more I ended up understanding myself more.

Bit by bit I ended up encountering mindfulness. Which at the beginning I hated as a term because I felt it was very counter intuitive. The more I read up into mindfulness the more it really resonated. On a theoretical level, on a political level, and on a personal level. By spending time in nature by understanding how it works, by letting oneself be inspired and be healed by nature; That in itself is a mindful process.

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Essentially one had encountered so much physical and emotional trauma in that one year whether inflicted upon myself or even worse seeing it inflicted on those that I cared about or even those that I did not know. But we share the common political ground. Accumulated traumas from that still are carried by myself as well as thousands of others to this day.

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There’s no romanticisation of revolution there’s no romanticisation of Conflict and uprising. But I am absolutely grateful… because of how I ended up having to respond to these traumas.….. even politically How to better see how we can…be better as a holistically as a planet….

Get through the inevitable crises that we are facing and will continue to face at an exponential rate in the future.

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After the 2011 uprisings I was adamant on working in the field and I ended up getting a job managing an NGO working in nature conservation as well as working with a company that does educational environmental tourism and it’s a company called Dima. It made me aware of certain dimensions relating to our survival to relating to sustainability relating to the battles that we are trying to fight for justice.

I realised the importance of of Nature, and of the natural resources that we depend on.
What many people are realising now is that all political and economic and even social dynamics relating to us as a species to us humans as a species are directly or indirectly related to our relationship with surrounding nature.

The fact that we continue to separate ourselves from the things that keep us alive. Starting from our food all the way to even the air that we breathe in the oxygen that comes from that comes from other living beings and other habitats on this planet. Our separating ourselves from the nature we depend on, is at the heart of some of the existing conflict over resources, as well as the trajectory that we’re taking towards the collapse of the systems that support us.

Political ecologies is excellent as a term in encompassing this. It says that…Whenever we look at nature and its resources, we need to think about the political, social and economic structures that govern nature. If we’re going to talk about its conservation. And at the same time, if we’re looking at development; We need to think about the ecological processes that support. These social processes.

To be honest, we’re all implicated. The phone that I’m using now to speak with you. About sustainability the components that were used to make this phone are not sustainable. The coffee that I am sipping on at the moment is is it supposed to be ethically sourced but, in the end, it’s probably come from somewhere very far away. That in itself, we’ve become so dependent on these things.

Back when I was 15, my father was imprisoned by the Mubarak regime. Or The regime that was in power in Egypt for 30 years. My father was sentenced to four five years in prison. At that time I remember specific telling myself things like alright. You have a minute to feel whatever you want to feel

And then as soon as that minute’s done. Switch it off. Switch it off, go back continue about your day don’t revel in your head, just move along and I remember being 15 and telling myself these things. And while obviously that might not always be the best solution. I remember forcing myself to just to be able to disconnect from the anxieties and the fears in my head.
To be able to just continue to function.

Ten years later when I found myself…. Acknowledging my anxiety for the first time, I realised that I’ve been breathing wrong my entire life. We’re not taught how to breathe when we’re kids no one tells you to breathe through your stomach when you’re a child.

In my last year of university, I was I was studying political science and law and then my last year I got involved in a music project that made music out of garbage. So, recycling and upcycling waste to make music and to raise environmental and social and political awareness using it using music as a means. That music project introduced me to the people that I ended up working with for the years to come.

Ajay Rastogi, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Ajay Rastogi: A Resilient Leader

Ajay Rastogi’s life is a journey of passion, enquiry and action for the protection of nature, biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods. To practice what he preaches, Ajay left a gleaming career as a conservationist to move to the village of Majkhali, Uttarakhand, India, at the foothills of the Himalayas, and work in a hands-on way with the villagers. Ajay set up headquarters of The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, the Vrikshalaya Centre, to be a meeting place for the local village community, a hub of knowledge exchange with extended communities in the Himalayan lowlands, and a destination for people interested in deeper and more meaningful forms of sustainability.

Nature-centred contemplation can be held anywhere.

Through his work promoting nature mindfulness, and resilient thinking, Ajay has challenged the caste system and gender inequality in the region, and created a network and cultural exchange between west and east, urban and rural – and helped the villagers find a new form of income that is meaningful and future focussed. The proof of concept is in the eyes of all the people involved; the host families and visitors, the neighbouring tribes and volunteering conservationists. When the guests leave, says Ajay: “Every farewell is always tearful, always connected.”

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Learning Resilient Leadership Skills from Village Women
One of Ajay’s major initiatives is to connect international students with the women of the village through homestay immersion courses. Combined with course work and village development schemes, these short residential courses aim to increase authentic leadership skills and critical thinking as well as share the latest conservation frameworks and models through practice as well as theory. The Foundation’s 3 principles of resilience are at the heart of all the teaching, as well as work on intensifying inner resilience and soft skills needed for the next wave of sustainability; collaboration, co-creation and empathy, mindfulness, mindful communication, resourcefulness in the face of adversity, and human, compassionate values.

Students are sent every year from top universities such as Princeton, Pittsburgh, Western State Colorado, NOLS (www.nols.edu), Where There be Dragons (wheretherebedragons.com), Realms of Inquiry (realmsofinquiry.org) Lakeside School, and Menlo School. Ajay’s aim is to spread the Resilient Leadership method to other types of organisations by setting up teacher training courses. Our podcast is interviewing conservation and human rights leaders to explore what tools and cases should be included in Resilient Leadership workshops and courses for government and other forward looking organisations.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by by Dhirendra Bisht.

Inner Motivation through the Contemplation of Nature
The teaching sessions are always preceded with half an hour practicing The Contemplation of Nature. This a straight forward secular mindfulness meditation, but on surrounding nature- the source of all life. The method is documented in a book published in Spanish in Chile, and available in print form. This specific form of mindfulness practice is based on robust scientific research into proven benefits of mindfulness, nature immersion and compassionate values.

The Relaxation Response- a state where the body’s physiology reacts to not being under stress, is an important factor for health and wellbeing, and compassionate values are known to result in increased civic participation and a positive effects on sustainability.

When mindfulness is practiced as a group before a conference or work session, something incredible happens. The atmosphere changes, and so does our openness to engage with each other and simply listen. Ajay believes that Nature-based Mindfulness, together with Resilient Thinking, are powerful catalysts for personal transformation and motivation to evolve our relationship to the planet and humanity.

The results; increased awareness and dialogue with ourselves, each other, society, and of the world beyond.

3 Principles of Resilience.
Through his work, Ajay aims to share the first-hand experience of 3 foundation’s core principles of Resilience;
The Dignity of Physical Work, Inter-connectivity and Interdependence.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

Edgework; Place-based learning.
Ajay’s residential courses begin with teaching how to perform bio-cultural mapping and other tools of the conservationist. He introduces big concepts such as The Common Good Economy and Community Capitals Framework. He creates active workshops where the participants actively map deeper contexts of environment and culture working with villagers to tackle topics of indigenous knowledge systems and practices, gender dimensions and roles, or caste systems.

For his work as an experiential teacher, Ajay has already received the Global Maverick Teacher Award in 2008. The cultural exchange between the students and the village has challenged both to think about how lifestyle, social equity and environment are as interconnected.

Transcript from Podcast; Ajay Rastogi, ON INNER RESILIENCE

Hi my name is Ajay Rastogi. And we live in the village of Majkhali. It’s in the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region. And it’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi. And we overlook the high Himalayas. Many 6000 meters high peaks from maybe. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in the society which are needed for sustainability required that we also relook at the approach that we have taken so far in the environmental movements. So, for that reason I was thinking what can be more transformative than a meditative practice, which can be done in nature.

Meditation is being considered as the methodology for inner transformation.

The contemplation of nature is done in a natural surrounding. It’s a multi-sensory experience. It helps because we are a biological organism and, therefore we have an inherent drive to connect with nature. It’s kind of we are genetically wired, so it is not that abstract as many people find many other meditative practices to be. So, it is a good beginning.

People can begin with it and then get to deeper levels of meditation whichever part they want to follow. But meditation in nature contemplation of nature is definitely an approach which can be done on a daily basis and it leads to that level of tranquillity and gives us the benefits of the meditation the compassion the kindness and the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.

At about 23rd minute a tranquillity factor causes deeper trigger or physiological relaxation. Which brings the body and the internal chemistry, in a much more regulatory and balanced way.

That’s called the relaxation response, and that’s what we are trying to achieve, also at the physiological level besides the psychic and other benefits, that the meditation will bring.

So, as we sit and observe with a soft gaze

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One may not have access to such landscapes so it can be done indoors.
And it can be done with very simple objects of nature, then following the three steps of native contemplation that we have designed.

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So the three steps simple three steps is observe nature with a soft gaze except with gentle detachment and send love with sympathetic attention. Observe nature with a soft gaze, we accept the gentle detachment remaining. Not interested in finding details. Of course, the mind would wander here and there but as soon as we realised that we have gone further and drifted we can come back to observe nature with a soft gaze.

One additional element which is a very important element of Need contemplation practice is to let go and this happens by just as we sit down and begin our contemplation, we send love with sympathetic attention, we just remind ourselves of the gratitude the feeling of gratitude. And then we sit, observe softly with a gaze, and continue a gentle detachment.

The let go is not to make any judgment about where we are What are we doing. And this is a step which is a transcendental in nature and therefore it is very therefore itself a fundamental aspect of the practice that we are able to somehow transcend this call of judgment and thinking mind at least for a little while.

END

Episode 2: ON SURVIVAL Transcript

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Direct link to Transistor:

https://share.transistor.fm/s/39486f1f

In the second episode On Survival, we have 3 strong voices who understand the need for radical, system change. First you hear the words of Monica Kucia, culinary curator in Warsaw, who talks about how to take the ego out of food. Then you will hear Design Leader Daniel Wahl, author of Regnerative Cultures who speaks about bioregional development. Finally, we hear Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, and founder of the NGO Local Futures.

Transcript to the Podcast

Tanya’s Voice:  Welcome to Nordic By Nature: ON SURVIVAL.
It’s been a hot summer with amazing electrical storms and unpredictable weather. I’ve been at home reading about the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess.

He defined the term Deep Ecology and offered a serious vision for systemic change.

For example;

Number 1. Humanity cannot survive without Nature. We need to design all our systems and concepts around that notion. Our current economic model of perpetual growth, for example, is not viable, nor useful for the dignity of mankind.

Number 2. Diversity is life. We need to cultivate biological and cultural equity locally, as well as reducing carbon emissions globally. Our co-existence with nature is dependent on the equity of our global community and the legal and moral right of every living being to exist as part of an ever-changing eco-system.

Number 3. Organizations must review their societal purpose and enable sustainable livelihoods. Our governments and organisations need to declare a global climate emergency and mobilise together.

You will hear three people working towards this change.

First, culinary curator Monika Kucia, explains how she takes the ego out of serving food. Monika runs a farmer’s & producers’ market in Warsaw and hosts cultural food events that connect all types of people.

Then you will hear from design leader and educator Daniel Wahl. Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures is must for anyone interested in transformative innovation.

Lastly, you will hear Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, a seminal work that compares the way of life in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, before and after globalisation.

I hope you have time to sit back and relax and listen to this podcast with your headphones.

Monika Kucia

My name is Monica Kucia, and I’m a food writer and food curator so I design culinary events that are also artistic and have some social aspect.

Everything I do seems to be around food, but I find more and more when I get older that it’s everything is actually connected and if food is the medium that I use in my work it’s never only about food.

It’s always about connections relationships is about art is about history.

It’s about family and this what really makes my heart beat faster if I see that I can I’m able to join all these aspects around a table, and around the taste around experience of eating or cooking.

I think I was sort of born with this intuition like you know you. So, I started to being interested in food very early. Like when I was a teenager. And then when I started writing about it like 20 years ago, it was just fascinating that it’s so different in every region, and also it’s very different in every personal story. Probably you have a completely different story than I have.

We actually can say that there is the food voice. There is something that you express about yourself through the food. So this is what I started exploring probably 13 years ago when I published the first book. It’s like the sun and everything else is like sort of moving around it.

It’s sensual because it involves all our senses, and also it connects people because it’s about feeding and feeding is giving the energy. So it’s about the flow, how it goes between the people.

Everywhere I go, I meet food people, I always connect with them instantly. They have similar sensitivity or a similar approach to many things. They are more open maybe. So it’s a big tool for making friends, for talking about anthropology, for also having fun and enjoying yourself.

It is everything in one, you know! (laugh)

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As humanity, as people we went wrong somewhere. Probably in the 20th century or even maybe before that when there was the industrial revolution. I would blame the mass production basically and the greed and indulgence.

It’s more now about pleasing oneself than about feeding myself. You know it’s not always that if I want to please myself it’s actually good for me or good for other people or good for the planet.

So because we have means and we have the global system we can have any food we want.

And in the end it’s not a good thing. It destroys nature.

But what I’m saying is that we went wrong and maybe there is no way back. But what we can do now is make our personal choices that are wise and we should use our knowledge and awareness to stop the process of destroying our home which is the earth.

So, we started doing the farmer’s market in Warsaw in April.

We prepared it for a long time. And the idea is to bring the real food with the real people that are making it to the people who live in the inner city.

We have some markets with organic food in Warsaw, we have markets with producers’ other markets.

In this area, where we started it, in Praga, Centrum Praskie Koneser, there is nothing like that. So we thought that it’s good to give it a shot.

And for me what’s really important is that there is a relationship possible, that you can talk to the person who produces the food. So, it changes our attitude, and the way we are used to do shopping, nowadays, that you just come to the shelf and pick whatever you want, because you are the king, the king of the supermarket.

And here is a person who’s touched all these sausages or fish or veg or cheese or anything else that we have there with their own hands.

This is personal. Shopping becomes personal. In this situation that you just come you get to know these people. It’s more for me. It’s very important to respect these people so just to show them respect because they work very hard and they give us very good quality healthy food.

For me it’s a work of turning around the idea of shopping. It’s more about me coming to these people to get my food to feed my family rather than being the picky gourmet customer who just looks for the best product.

I think we should really support each other, and we should really change the proportions in my opinion. This is how it should be. So, the village feeds us so we should appreciate them, and we should respect them.

We don’t value food anymore because it was so cheap. It can be so cheap, and it’s so easily obtainable. We are facing the fact that it might change during our lives like that the food will not be that easily obtainable

I had a grandmother in a little village, and she worked really hard because it was like a small farm and everything was from this small farm. Everything we had what it means that there was no trash. There was no garbage. Nobody would ever take any trash because there wasn’t any.

There was a shop in this village, and it was open twice a week for I think four hours. There was no plastic, so I remember buying like notebooks for writing. There was not much in this shop so they would produce everything for themselves exchange with the neighbours. And it was very hard life. It was not fun.

Waking up at 5:00 in the morning. It’s not something that we would regard as this nostalgic sentimental vision of the village.

So, what I’m saying is that I understand that we have become so comfortable like in the cities like this probably two percent of older people in the planet that we have the access to the goods from all over the world.

And we don’t have to really work with our hands obviously nowadays they have machines they have resources from the European Union they get money is very different.

The Simple Life is hard at the simple basic one small farm with two cows and one pig farm.

It’s just hard life.

Therefore, we should appreciate and respect the people who still take the effort and they actually do it with their own hands, rather than eat the artificial food becomes less and less actual food. It becomes a product.

It becomes processed item that has no connection with where it comes from. Usually we don’t know what it comes from. We don’t ask this question when we buy. I don’t know readymade pizza. You don’t really ask the questions Where do the ingredients come from.

Climate change. This is something that I think most people don’t really take seriously.

This is us being lazy. It will finally probably kill us if we keep doing it.

Cooking some potatoes and some carrot. And it doesn’t take that long.

This is more about our approach. People make choices and sometimes it’s more important to do something else.

But still I observe here in Poland that we have had so much ready-made food, in the last five years that I have never seen before.

Still with this huge interest in cooking in food in the culinary program’s culinary books, all these like celebrities there is more and more ready-made food cooking becomes a luxury. In a way with our farmers market is a struggle. I would say.

We need to convince people that it’s better to come there to get to know these people and come every week. To have your ex straight from the farm, to have your meat if you eat meat, and to have other things straight from the people. But this is the effort. And this is in your mind.

This is how you see yourself how you would see the community how much you connect.

I never would say that food is the most important thing, because people can be extremely healthy and destroy their relationships destroy the planet destroy themselves in different aspects, like emotionally or spiritually.

So, what I’m saying is that food is just one of the factors.

I don’t believe that anything can be taken apart like separate from other things. Food is something that everybody needs every day. True, but if you live in harmony and I’m not saying I live in harmony but I know some people who do they have this sense of proportion.

So, there is the place for food but they are not crazy about it.

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We want the children to be healthy so they shall eat healthy food.

But you know when you don’t respect yourself and don’t mean good for yourself you will never understand why do you need this healthy food.

It’s about the relationships you have. It’s about the family you create friendships.

If you mean good for yourself and for the others. If you are an openhearted then you eat the food that actually nourishes your and is good for you. And you are aware of all the aspects because you are aware.

So, food is actually a part of mindfulness I would say as much as anything else, like sleeping, loving food just reflects our attitude towards us towards the planet towards other people.

This is the same is about clothes, making clothes, buying new clothes, new shoes.

If we realize how much effort and pain and struggle there is behind these foods or the clothes or other goods that we are getting if we realize how cruel it the businesses, then we would really make different choices probably as consumers.

So, it’s not just white western world. It’s more about economic power.

This why if you want to be fair it’s better to buy locally because then if you know what it comes from you can say that you do honest choices.

Yeah. Otherwise you never know.

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So, this why coming back to these communities.

I’m for example in this group on Facebook that it’s only with my neighbour it’s like not neighbours in my building because I know them personally.

But like in the district in the area I think this is the future. There is a lot of exchange. There is a lot of no money business.

We have the currency. Avocados or wine aren’t the currency, something that we all want.
More like a barter. But there is also the currency.

This is something that it’s so informal.

There is no bureaucracy.

I just lend you my bike because you need, it and I trust you, and you will give it back after two days, and I trust with that.

And this is normal behaviour and It’s nothing new. Like people have lived like this forever probably.

Because we depend on each other.

But what I’m saying is that with the global globalization and then with this problems that it brings with itself, the only solution is to get back to these roots, to something that is real and it’s just close to you and you can touch it. I just believe that the future is sensual. Getting to make stuff with our hands, really.

I believe this is the only rescue.

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We will never create a proper paradise probably here. But when I’m creating my events the things that I’m doing with the food, around food, connected with culture and rituals and some traditions and history.

I just see that people want to have something real.

This is really what wakes them up.

It brings real value rather than just fun or entertainment. What I believe and what I’m doing is to get people involved rather than present something. So, they are your words and they can judge it.

If you are a part of something, then you feel responsible for it, because it depends on you. It’s up to you. You are a participator. And this is what I believe also in gastronomy, like, this why I work with the village women with homeless people, with the like really unknown cooks.

What I’m saying is that when you have the famous chef and the creation of course you relate to this person or to the dish you can get very touched very emotional.

But on the other hand, you have this chef who wants to be famous   and then you have the customer who also wants to be regarded as of a higher status because they can eat in this place because they have money.

This is about ego.

All of it.

This is not a simple exchange.

It’s more about the status and about the whole spectacle but meaning like “showing off.”

What’s more important, more interesting to explore, is all these worlds of other people who also feed their families, feed other people, but they don’t do it to show off.

We’re all makers and we are all capable of doing things.

I also go to the little villages to listen to old people who still sing the old songs like real folk music.

I’ve been told that in the traditional singing the songs is more most important, so the song goes through the singer. We are only passing it through.

Also, the recipe the traditional whatever, spaghetti carbonara, or Polish broth or Pierogi or whatever; we are just transmitting.

We are the stewards, and this is about not being too humble because you can be a great steward, but you don’t own it and here it is the song doesn’t belong to anybody. It belongs to the community and the singer has the privilege to sing it.

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When there is less ego than you just enjoy the process because you are connected, and you are a part of something bigger than you.

And I think that this is what really makes us feel really safe, like beings, that we are connected, because this is what we all want, somewhere inside.

In the food area it’s also for me important to remember that food is about actually about feeding you feed your family.

You feed yourself your feed your community in whatever way you can because you can feed them with water so you can feed them with films you can feed them with food.

Especially in Polish.  There is the word in Polish, Poshivina, it is more like ‘giving life’ and it means food. This is very important for me to remember this. I’m just serving. I’m serving something but you respect me for serving this to you. There is no power game in it.

This is how I tried to create the events and… and I have had this experience for several years now that people need it.

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I don’t believe in the fixed national, nationality like in the way that my identity is solid, because I’m the traveller and everybody’s a traveller.

If my life is a journey, then I’m changing. I’m just an inhabitant of the earth, basically, at the moment.

Anything is sort of solid like a monument it’s never real. And if something is real nobody will take away it from you. It’s impossible.

We are flowing with whatever is happening through the history. And please remember that kitchen is something that never stops. It’s always changing.

If we say about traditional cuisine to what point do we refer?

What year? What period? It’s like telling fairy tale.

It’s constantly changing because people bring products because we are omnivores, so we eat everything.

It’s constantly changing.

There is no other thing that changes so fast as cuisine, as the food to world.

I’d rather say “Kitchen in Poland” than Polish cuisine.

People are scared and they need to hang on to something, because they don’t want to accept the fact that it’s all about insecurity.

This is also about the ego.

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Nature will win anyway.

Nature doesn’t need us. It’s not like that we aren’t an important factor for an age. If you watch Chernobyl. Yeah? it’s growing back. So, the nature will deal with this problem when there is not more humans.

Maybe we are coming to a disaster. I don’t know.

But also, only my intention matters.

So if I do the right thing as much as I can do I try hard.

It’s about my heart.

It’s not about anything else.

I’m not optimistic for humanity. It’s about system. It’s about the big money that is behind these things that are happening, that took us to this point where we are.

This is about fossil fuels. This is about global politics.

The system is just making it more dangerous for the planet.

The ego is the centre, or central problem is the ego.
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Daniel Christian Wahl

My name is Daniel Wahl. I used to be a marine biologist, got disheartened with reductionist science and lack of including other ways of knowing into the way we do science, and ended up doing a Masters in holistic science at Schumacher college.

At that point, I realized the power of Design in putting this new holistic world view of Gaia theory and Goethian and holistic science interaction, and have been on this path of a sense of exploring how we can redesign the human presence and impact on earth within our lifetime, so we can actually have a future as a species, because we are currently facing the possibility of short term human extinction, if we don’t fundamentally change our ways.

Life is a planetary process. And we are part of that planetary process.

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I work a lot now within with the term regenerative design and regenerative development.

Sustainable being something that is really ways of doing things that don’t add any more damage to the system.

And restorative and regenerative, going beyond that, and actually trying to undo the damage that we’ve done over so many decades and centuries of very unsustainable practices.

So, it’s very much about finding solutions that come out of ‘place.’

That attuned to the story that the place itself wants to tell, and the people who have lived with it for generations. But it also is central that it’s about enabling their capacity – of the people who actually live in that place to respond to change as in an inevitable.

My belief is that design has a huge part in making that possible.

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Well, the process of the United Nations responding to climate change has been painfully slow.

With the Paris breakthrough, there’s been some form of commitment of staying under two degrees average warming globally. But more recently the IPCC has revised that, and has said that it’s necessary to actually stay below one point five degrees. The reality is we’re not on track at all.

We’re on track to six seven eight degrees warming which basically would mean the unravelling of ecosystems around the globe and the end of civilization as we know it.

The most recent report actually it was November 2008 in gave the world 12 years to fundamentally respond to this crisis. But I think that again the IPCC has a tendency to be conservative, so they don’t get criticized. And 12 years is too long of a window of opportunity to give ourselves.

I think Antonio Guterres the Secretary General of the U.N. in September last year was probably more on the mark by saying that if we don’t respond within the next two or three years, in the way that is unprecedented in terms of international collaboration, then we might have triggered runaway climate change to a point that even if we decide afterwards to do something about it, it would be too late.

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We don’t even know half or more than half of the species yet that exist. Particularly the species in the soil microbes. We’re just at the beginning of cataloguing them all.

And really that’s where soil fertility starts, and with it the foundations for higher lifeforms.

It’s really understanding that every single species does matter and has a role to play in creating this collaborative symbiotic system that is basically life as a planetary process.

And we’re part of it, and we’re completely dependent on it.
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I strongly believe in the power of design.

I think ultimately, it’s about design as human intentionality expressed through interactions and relationships. It covers product design but it also covers other more complex issues like monetary systems, transport systems our whole economic system and even the way we do research in the different academic disciplines.

There’s a design decision at the beginning of each discipline. So, basically any act human intention has a design element in it.

In that sense, the most powerful design intervention is the meta design intervention of changing people’s world views and value systems, and the stories we tell about each other and in our relationship to nature. When you shift that then our perceived and our real needs shift.

And with that our intention shifts in everything down stream changes.

I think design is powerful and designers very often oversell it, and most design schools still haven’t actually woken up to how critical design and deep ecological design thinking could be to the survival of our species.

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There are a lot of companies out there who are supplying things we don’t really need or they’re supplying them in a way that is based on programmed obsolescence and turnover of products.

And I don’t think that that kind of business practice has a future.

I think we need to create much more durable products that much more easily repairable at a local level.

But we also need to create products that are to some extent, the components are more recyclable. But really if you go deeper, you realize that most of the materials we make things out of, we’re going to run out of sooner or later.

So, all that thinking around Circular Economy and two loops in the Circular Economy diagram with a cradle to cradle diagram, the industrial metabolism and the biological metabolism, they’re really just concepts.

Ultimately, we’re going to have to shrink the industrial metabolism because most of the materials in that cycle we won’t be able to recycle forever.

So, one of the big oversells around that is this concept of upcycling. It doesn’t actually work to up cycle things indefinitely, unless you have a free source of energy and there is no such thing.

We’re really needing to fundamentally shift our material culture towards more bio-materials that are regenerative grown, in the region, for the region, and based on the resources that that particular ecosystem has to offer.

It has to be done in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the rest of the ecosystem. So, the contrary, it has to be done in a way that it regenerates the ecosystem.

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Basically, these companies are beholden to their shareholders. They operate within a system that is fundamentally exploitative and degenerative. Then that system is our current economic system.

The way that we’ve designed money and the way money is created and the way that we have differential interests on deposit and loans and therefore create an economic playing field that is based on a zero-sum thinking, so basically on winners and losers. And while we have a system like that, and we have that necessity that a national economy needs to grow at a minimum at 3 percent per annum otherwise it collapses,

There are a lot of top-level sustainability minded CEOs that really do care, and yet they are stuck in a system where to some extent, most of what they do is moving deck chairs on the Titanic.

Ultimately, they really need to consider that maybe the assumption that these companies, just because they’ve been around for 100 years, have to be around for another hundred years, might be an erroneous assumption.

Maybe some of these companies actually have to program for their own… or design for their own death in ways that they can then re-emerge in like a phoenix from the ashes, as knowledge networks that help more regional production and regional consumption [00:09:39] With the innovation and development that they’ve been very good at.

That’s at the CEO level.

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But for a lot of people who are working in these companies, who are beginning to see that their children are not going to school on Fridays because they’re claiming they’re right for a Liveable Future. Or they see London being disrupted by the Extinction Rebellion and more and more people getting more and more verbal about the fact that it’s five past 12.

We don’t even have a guarantee that we are still going to be able to make it if we do things fundamentally different now.

Most people today are still somewhat stuck in beginning to realize how profound the changes are that we are now called to do individually, as communities, as nations, and as one human family. And at the same time making sure our kids are in school, and that we can pay their bills, so the food’s on the table.

But we are facing transformative change in a way that these incremental innovations, and these incremental changes, just aren’t going to make it in time. So, hold onto your hat.

We have to relearn how to collaborate.

Moving from competitive advantage to collaborative advantage. And realizing that we’re all in this together. Living Spaceship Earth is in danger of collapsing on us.

We’re living in a dream-nightmare, that that tells the story that was somehow separate from nature that culture and nature are not one.
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I’m increasingly thinking that working by regionally is the scale at which we can make the biggest difference.

Bio- regionalism has been around since the late 1960s, and this whole concept of re habitation re inhabiting our bio regions, and reconnecting to the biological cycles, the ecological cycles of those regions,

Increasingly also the conversation about what would sustainable cities look like– Understand that it is a reconnection of the city back to its region. So, I could definitely see that there could be models developed in Sweden.

It’s the same with a lot of regions that people have strong allegiance to their particular region.

And so, I think that’s a great starting point because one of the core things about regenerative development and creating regenerative cultures is that they are born out of the uniqueness, the bio cultural uniqueness of place.

They are sensitive to both the ecological and biological uniqueness of the ecosystems they inhabit, but they also are sensitive to the historical cultural dimension, of how people have lived in relationship with nature, and with the elements and with climate, and with the patterns of that particular place, and I think it makes …makes a lot of sense to rekindle those regional identities, but to not do so in a sort of parochial “Let’s go back and pull up the draw bridges, and create lifeboats in a turbulent world” But as understanding that that is the scale of action for a globally collaborative effort to heal the planet, that we have raped and pillaged, basically, and in doing so possibly also heal ourselves, heal our relationship to each other and heal the relationship between humanity and nature.

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I know that in Costa Rica there’s a movement to create a bio-regional regenerative development case study in one part of the country. And actually the whole country is looking at adopting regenerative development as.. as their main development strategy.

Things are shifting.
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Luckily, I also see that there’s a confluence of movements in all walks of life like people trying to transform business from within.

In recent years the Capital Institute started initiatives to work with people in regions to create these “regen” economy hubs at the bio regional scale.

This movement is growing and the different players unnecessarily fully aware of themselves.

I’m also thinking of the Planetary Health Alliance with network of universities and research institutions around the world doing the research and looking into the connections between planetary health ecosystems, Health Population, Health and individual health.

We need to really understand the intrinsic value of our life and planetary health to the whole community of life.

And then there’s organizations like Common land in the Netherlands who’ve developed functional strategies to do large scale ecosystems restoration, working with local farmers, and local landowners, in specific areas around the world, and transforming entire regions that are between 500,000 and a million hectares.

The momentum is building.

I think the next two years are critical. I’m still hopeful.

We are actually going to see this transformative change to become a global emergency response.

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It’s only now that we’re slowly beginning to link up the people who have pioneered works in sustainable cities and sustainable architecture and in more bio-materials construction methodologies and so forth with new and pioneering in buy materials and product design, with all the wonderful work that is in kind of Earth Care and earth healing, eco-therapy, from permaculture to agroforestry to analogue forestry and all these other techniques that have been around for a while and have been improved over years and years of experimenting.

We also have lots of case studies to point out that we can if we choose to have a positive impact on the environment that we inhabit. There are plenty of places around the world where large scale regenerative agricultural projects have shown impressive ways; the before and after that is possible in 15, 20 years.

I am thinking of the Lös plateau example that John Low (?) was now founded the ecosystems respiration camp Foundation reported on in the early 2000s. In China, an area of hundreds of square kilometres was being transformed from arid eroding semi desert, to lush terraces that are bio productive with the springs coming back and the tree cover being permanent again, and basically increasing the carbon content in the soil, drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, improving the bio productivity of the area, improving the hydrology of the area, improving the amount of food that it generated and so on.

These things are possible, and there are examples all over the world.

The way that life creates conditions conducive to life is by continuously experimenting with novelty, and so things keep changing. Our planet sits within larger systems as well, that also affect how the conditions on our planet change.

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There is no destination sustainability. There is no destination regenerative culture. It is a continuous community-based process of learning of how to adapt and how to respond creatively to change.

[00:20:13] To do so in ways that we enable people to discover their own essence, their unique contribution to making the system more vibrant and more vital and more valuable. But in all levels of value. not just in economics to economic terms.

We all have to walk that path. That is what life is all about. To be adaptive, resilient and regenerative — respond to change.

Helena

I’m Helena Norberg Hodge and I’m the director of Local Futures, an international charity. For the last almost 40 years I’ve been promoting what I call ‘decentralization’ or ‘localization’. And that’s because I had the experience of working in cultures that had not been affected by the global market. Cultures like Bhutan and Ladakh, and later on a lot of experience with places like Laos and many parts of the world.

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In the mid 70s, Ladakh or Little Tibet, it was a part of the world that had not been colonized nor developed in the modern era. And there I found people who were still providing for all their basic needs from their own resources producing a range of things, some vegetables, grain, they kept animals there had their own architectural tradition of local materials. They still wove their own clothes from their own wool. And I started at first working on a dictionary, and travelled, actually walked through the whole region, it’s about the size of Austria. But in this high-altitude desert there were small villages, that survived by irrigating the desert from glacial melt.

As I got to know the people, I found that they were the most relaxed, the most joyous, the most vibrant people I had ever met.

I also saw that the opening up to the area to outside development was beginning to bring rapid change.

So, I ended up starting projects to demonstrate an alternative to conventional development, which among other things included demonstrating renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels.

I also had my eyes open to the craziness in the global market.

So, I literally saw in a very short period after the area was opened up have having been sealed off for a long time. But that had travelled for more than a week over the high Himalayan mountains coming in and being sold for half the price of butter that came from the farm next door.

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So, this opened my eyes to then doing studies around the world as I was invited to speak or to start projects similar to the one in Ladakh. So that included Bhutan. I was in parts of Africa, invited to Mongolia, to Burma Myanmar, to Laos and everywhere I went. I would keep my eyes open for this. What was happening with the global market and what it was doing to the local production and local producers.

And I found the same pattern; in Mongolia where they had 20 million milk producing animals, in Ulan Bator, most of the butter came from Germany.

In Kenya, I found butter from Holland crossing half the price of local butter and as I returned to Europe. I found the same thing.

I became a passionate advocate of the need to strengthen local economies worldwide.

Small producers; farmers, fishermen, forest workers that were producing a range of things from diverse, adapted species of animals, and plants were being replaced by bigger and bigger monocultures. And they were being pushed off the land into bigger and bigger cities and in those cities, there were fewer and fewer jobs.

Traditionally in these cultures there had been no such thing as unemployment.

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As people were driven off the land into larger and larger cities, all of them created through huge investments in fossil fuel-based infrastructure, there was the beginnings of tensions between people who had lived side by side in more local economies, based on local resources where they were interdependent.

Now suddenly they were dependent on anonymous institutions lost bureaucracies.

And there was this dreadful artificial scarcity of livelihoods of jobs.

After only about a decade of opening up the local market the local economy to outside development these pressures led to violent conflict– to bloodshed. People had lived together side by side for generations.

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Most people have never experienced intact local economies.

We have a historical development where colonialism and slavery already destroyed more diversified self-reliant local economies. So, once you have destroyed the fabric of interdependence local interdependence fabric or more diversified production, based on biodiversity, then it’s very hard to see a clear path towards localization.

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Most people are not looking at the global system.

This is not about good guys and bad guys. At some level we all know that we depend on the living world, we all know that the real economy is the earth. But there is very little clarity I think about the way that we have lost sight of that.

Politically left and right in this regard is completely meaningless.

Finding a way back to a genuinely sustainable way, will require recognizing first of all that, that food is the most important production product that we have. It’s the only thing that every person needs every day. The only thing.

To allow a system where governments are continuing to subsidize greater and greater distance between each individual and the source of their food. That that inefficiency is responsible by far for the ecocide that we’re witnessing.

We have today a system that has allowed this to go so far, that countries routinely import and export the same product.

The US exports about a billion tonnes of beef and turns around and imports about a billion tonnes of beef …. The UK exports as much butter and milk as it imports. Right now, the UK is exporting 20 tonnes of bottled water to Australia. Australia is exporting 20 tonnes of water to the UK.

On top of that in this global food system we now have big business, being basically condemned to roam the world for the cheapest labour and that means that they will fly fish from Norway to be de-boned in China and it’s flown back again.

Apples were flown from England to South Africa to be washed and flown back again. This is going on, on a massive and increasing scale, while we talk about climate change.

At the same time the emissions from those planes and giant container ship that are shipping things back and forth. Those emissions are not even calculated.

This is not about some…one evil corporation or that every CEO is evil or that every government is completely self-interested.

This is about blindness to the workings of a global system that we are simply not looking at. And it requires effort.

We need to look at the trends from a global point of view but look at them on the ground.

Local governments are responding more to the needs of people and the needs of the natural world.
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Both people and nature are diverse. This is a fundamental principle of life. A fact.

And we change from moment to moment.

This is true of every plant of every animal and everything that lives.

We must change the economy so that we do not destroy that uniqueness and that life.

What is wonderful is that from the grassroots and very often through just individual initiatives, people have had enough experience, there are a whole proliferation of positive initiatives that when you analyse them from a structural point of view, you see they are about localization. They’re about reconnecting production and consumption and they’re about adapting and respecting the limits and the needs of the living world.

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When we made changes to the food economy, we’re making very fundamental very important changes.

People care most people care in every position. We want to do the right thing.

Even in some of the newly emerging hubs for localization, towns like Portland, Oregon, or ‘here I am now’ in Byron Bay Australia. People are moving there because there is more human scale community interaction. People are known more for who they are what they do what they think their values.

So those are far more attractive places to live.

The wonderful thing about localizing is that there is a structural relationship between shorter distances between the market and the farm so that the local market, the market closer to the farm, not only accepts diversity but demands diversity.

It can’t use 20 tons of straight carrots. It becomes economically interesting for the smaller farmer, or even for a bigger one that decides to localize, in order to survive economically, to start diversifying.

So I know of examples of farmers in America that were you know had been pressured to grow monocultures of tobacco almost all in or near bankruptcy, barely able to survive, who then would just convert a few acres of their land to a diverse range of vegetables to sell in the local market, and were then able to start getting back on their feet again.

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If we look globally, we can see there is such an urgent need to restore diversified food sovereignty.

Allow people and farmers to produce for themselves first and then keep some of their land or some of the effort for export whether to tourists or to another market.

Trade has always been there. So, this is not about ending trade.

When we start really exposing what’s going on and we understand our absolute need to reduce energy consumption wherever possible but more importantly, all laws to restore biodiversity on the land then a very different picture emerges.

We need to look at how taxes subsidies and regulations are used to favour monopolies. No self-respecting capitalists would actually believe in subsidizing monopolies but that’s what’s going on.

You do feel that there is a shift going on.

There is waking up it’s almost like an intuitive reawakening to what’s in our DNA.

You know we evolved more connected to one another and to the living world. And you just see people coming out of the cities longing for that reconnection to the earth and to community.

Community building combined with a deep spiritual reconnection to nature is an amazing therapy.

So, if we just open our eyes, we would see a very, very, clear path to healing, at the deep psychological personal spiritual level and healing the earth.

It’s amazing how many people are actually wanting to live a life of deeper connection and caring.

There are many ways that people are beginning to come together.

One of them of course is local markets.

There are also local business alliances.

There is local financing, where various forms, where people when they understand about localization start finding ways of creating for instance a revolving fund in their neighbourhood or with their local group that may be starting a food co-op that may be starting a garden at their children’s school.

There are new singing groups.

One of things that held us together as communities in almost all traditional cultures was that we sang and dance and made music together.

Only with the industrialization and commercialization of our lives, that we become a spectator culture.

This localization actually starts to help us regain many of the skills that we all have. And many of the strengths we have which have, we don’t experience when we lead our anonymous consumer lifestyles.

The most important thing we can do as individuals is to seek out like-minded people near where we live, cook a meal together and once we start opening our eyes to it we already feel so much better.

We already have greater faith in humanity. We realize the problem is not humanity. The problem is the in human scale of an economic system that we simply have not been looking at.

This is about how the global population can start providing for its needs and enriching its local economy. I want to see a growth. I want to see growth in healthy plants healthy animals. I want to see a growth in the number of jobs. I want to see a growth in the number of businesses.

Through the mega mergers, it looks like we’re just going to have one pharmaceutical company providing for the whole world. One seed company one water company.

No, we need to shift it so we have a genuine growth of proliferation into a number that is appropriate and that are all that’s the goal of localization; not to end trade but to restore democracy and to restore the responsibility of business to respond to ecological and cultural realities.

Credits:

Thank you for listening to second episode of Nordic By Nature, ON SURVIVAL.

Thank you very much to Monica Kucia.

You can find Monika on Facebook – (spell Monika Kucia) or her website  http://sialababamak.pl/  sia la baba mak

The Polish folk music you heard is from two different singing groups. The first group is from Gołvunecki who are making pierogi.

The Second Singing Ensemble you heard is from Dobrowoda. They have been singing together since 1968. The group have received the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Award.
Monika told me their names: (names listed)

Thank you also to Daniel Wahl.
You can find Daniel Wahl on Twitter, @DrDCWahl
And on Facebook at Regenerative Cultures and at Ecological Consciousness.
Daniel’s book Designing Regenerative Cultures is published by Triarchypress.net.
Daniel also has a blog on Medium at Design for Sustainability.
See DanielChristianWahl.com

And finally thanks to Helena Norberg Hodge.

Helena is the founder of the International Alliance for Localization and the not for profit Local Futures. Please see local futures dot org for tips on how to get started making changes in your local area.

Music and sound has been arranged by Diego Losa and you can find Diego on his web site, Diego Losa dot blogspot dot com.

If you are interested in mindfulness and resilient thinking please read about Ajat Rastogi and his village homestay retreats on found nature dot org. The retreats are based in a village called Majkhali in Uttarakhand India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. You can follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook and follow Ajay on Instagram at Contemplation of Nature.

Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life dot net production created with the support of the Nordic ministries. Please help us by sharing a link to this podcast with the hashtag #tracesofnorth. And please follow us on Instagram at Nordic by Nature Podcast.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast so please email me. Tanya on Nordic by nature at imaginarylife.net

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