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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can find more information about Tomas Björkman and his foundation on his website
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.
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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
Transcript episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ————————————————————-
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Nordic by Nature is a new type of mindful and spacious sound-crafted audio podcast inspired by Arne Ness, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term Deep Ecology.
In ten episodes, and with a global perspective, Nordic By Nature explores human, social and personal resiliency and adaptability that is needed for these challenging times.
The podcast is sent from Sweden and the foothills of the Himalayas by two colleagues who met in 2017; Tanya Kim Grassley and Ajay Rastogi. The podcast is intended to be listened to like an extended exercise in mindfulness; the soundscape has been designed by sound artist Diego Losa.
In the first episode On Activism, we have 3 strong voices who represent many thousands more at the forefront of change.
First you hear the words of Satish Kumar. To people in the ecology movement, Satish Kumar needs little introduction. He has been a world leading activist for over 50 years. In his early 20s, inspired by Gandhi and British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage together with E.P. Menon.
They walked, without any money, from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers. Satish sends a message to all activists out there! “You are doing something great,” he tells us. All important social change was driven by protest.
After Satish, we meet Marijn van de Geer, a Dutch national, living in London, and active member of the growing, grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, that staged a 10-day demonstration across London, in April 2019, preceding the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency. Marijn takes us by the hand through the Rebellion, why it is so necessary, and the experience of 10 days non-violent protest.
We then will hear Siti Kasim, celebrity lawyer and human rights activist who is passionate about the rights of the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula, the Orang Asli.
Hashtags to copy: tracesofnorth, Deep ecology, Arne Naess, Tracesofnorth, 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,
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. Hashtags to copy/paste: arnenaess, deepecology, tracesofnorth, monikakucia, danielwahl, danielchristianwahl, rejuvenativecultures, helenanorberg-hodge, ajayrastogi
Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE
Embeddable player for websites and blogs: <iframe src=’https://share.transistor.fm/e/39486f1f’ width=’100%’ height=’180′ frameborder=’0′ scrolling=’no’ seamless=’true’ style=’width:100%; height:180px;’></iframe>
Simple landing page and text to share on social media: https://share.transistor.fm/s/fac9e81d 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.
Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.
Noor A Noor, Conservationist, Cambridge University
Judith Schleicher, PhD Fellow at Cambridge University
Nordic by Nature is an Imaginary Life production, created with the support of the Nordic Ministries (Norden.org) and in partnership with The Foundation of the Contemplation of Nature. Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth, and follow us on Instagram Many thanks to Satish Kumar and Elaine Green for their ongoing support and encouragement. Satish is also the editor of Resurgence magazine, and the guiding spirit behind the internationally-respected Schumacher College in the UK. Many thanks to Marijn van de Geer, founder of the consultancy Resolution: Possible, Thanks to Extinction Rebellion members Emma Wallace and Sophie Jenna who also shared their Rebellion sound recordings with us. Please read more about the movements demands for transparency and climate justice on their website. Thank you to Siti Kasim, lawyer, activist and writer of the column Siti Thots on the Star Online. The flute music is a nose flute played by an indigenous Orang Asli man from the Temiar tribe in Kelantan. All the sounds have been arranged by Diego Losa.
You can follow Ajay’s project at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature and connect on Facebook and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram. Press contact: email@example.com Become our patron with even a small donation via Patreon!
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.
Podcast core team: Tanya Kim Grassley, Creator & Host The podcast is an Imaginary Life AB production. Tanya’s Imaginary Life is a network of creative professionals crossing research, strategy and design. Imaginary Life supports forward-looking organisations to facilitating co-creative processes to redefine their vision, values, design philosophy, brand strategy and shape better communications methods suited to transformation and change. www.imaginarylife.net
Ajay Rastogi, Co-host Ajay Rastogi is the cofounder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature where he runs courses in Resilient Leadership. Ajay won the Global Maverick Teacher award for this work in 2016. Ajay has has developed the nature-focussed mindfulness method for opening dialogue called the Contemplation of Nature. www.foundnature.org
Diego Losa, Sound Designer Each podcast begins with a 5-minute meditative spoken word audio journey. We then hear the voices of our guests, accompanied with sound samples and music arrangements that give space for reflection and open up an emotional connection with the speaker. Born in Buenos Aires, Diego Losa is a master of ’concrete music, sound engineering and contemporary digital tools. He is also professor at the EICAR (International Film school of Paris) at the Regional Conservatory of St Etienne and the Sorbonne University (France) and he composes pieces for film, dance, contemporary performance, television and radio. http://diegolosa.blogspot.com
Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today sent from Suburban Sweden, and a mountain village in Uttrakhand, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. My name is Tanya and my colleague Ajay will be joining us later. Sound has been arranged by Diego Losa, in Paris.
In this episode On Activism, we have 3 strong voices who represent many thousands more at the forefront of change. First you will hear the words of Satish Kumar. To people in the ecology movement, Satish Kumar needs little introduction. He has been a world leading activist for over 50 years.
In his early 20s, inspired by Gandhi and British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace-pilgrimage together with E.P. Menon. They walked, without any money, from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers.
After Satish, we will meet Marijn van de Geer, a Dutch national, living in London, and active member of the growing, grass- roots movement Extinction Rebellion, that staged a 10-day demonstration across London, in April 2019, preceding the UK parliament declaring a climate emergency.
We then will hear Siti Kasim, celebrity lawyer and human rights activist who is passionate about the rights of the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula, the Orang Asli.
I hope you can make some time to relax, and simply enjoy listening.
SOUND: CHANGES TO ARCTIC ICE RECORDINGS
It’s been snowing again last night. I’ve been reading about Arne Naess, the Norwegian Philosopher. He was committed to non-violent communication and research.
He coined the term Deep Ecology. His work can be summarised as follows.
Number 1. We underestimate ourselves. We confuse self with ego.
Number 2. Human nature, that is sufficiently mature, cannot help but identify with all living beings – Schopenhauer, Descartes, and Heidegger were all immature in these matters.
Number 3. Nature and our immediate environment have been largely left out of definitions of the Self.
Number 4. The meaning of life, and the joy we can experience in being alive, is enhanced by self realisation.
Number 5. We inescapably identify with others. Our self realisation is enhanced by the self realisation of others. It is possible to act beautifully in harmony with nature and not just morally or morally.
Number 6. The greatest challenge today is to save ourselves from ecological devastation which violates the existence of all living things.
SOUND: LOCAL TRAIN AND FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW
In 2017, I met Ah-jay Rastogi at a conference in Delhi called the Tasting India Symposium. After a long career as an ecologist, Ajay cofounded the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. The foundation has it’s headquarters, the Vrikshalaya centre, in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. Vrikshalaya means the Home of the Trees. Together with the village m’s women’s association, Ajay runs homestay courses in MountainResilience.
In 2016, he won a prestigious prize, Global Maverick Teacher. When I met Ajay he described 3 very important basic principles of life upon which his courses are based. (Fade to)
The Dignity of Physical Work, Interconnectivity, and Interdependence.
SOUND RECORDING: AJAY FIRST MEETING IN DELHI
My name is I Ajay Rastogi and for last 10 years I’ve gone back to live in my own village in the Himalayas. I used to work with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations working as the organic program coordinator for the country and.
The basic drive to move back was to for to find a tool for transformation of people from inside so that they can connect deeply with nature. And we have no residential program based out of village form stays rural homesteads where the toilet is outside in the sense that it is a structure where there is no running water and that students are supposed to.
Participants are supposed to stay for a two-week program and help the host family which is an agrarian family, in doing all the work that they do like, everyday work, which means taking care of the cow, getting fodder from the forest, and getting enough drinking water from the springs.
And the program is based on three pillars. One is called ‘Dignity of Physical Work’ because unfortunately now we are losing can contact in working with hands, our hands, the second is interdependence, because sometimes we feel that if I am economically sound then I don’t need anybody else; I just spend money and get whatever they want, but that’s not how society is structured. That’s not how the sustainability comes about.
So they learn about interdependence, and the third thing is interconnectedness, and interconnectedness is more about the landscape elements, that yeah this is what it is coming. But this is not by itself you know there there’s some trees there’s some infiltration taking place. There is some soil which can absorb. There is some aquifer and then the water comes up. It’s not as if it comes out of thin air.
And so, we have a structured program now it’s a three-credit course with the collaboration of the western state Colorado University called Mountain Resiliency. And it’s going on. We work with the National Outdoor Leadership School for last nine years. They’re students from all over the world come and participate in these programs.
Tanya: Thank you very much.
Ajay and I got talking.
What can organisations learn from a village in the Himalayas?
How is this way of life relevant to people living in cities?
Is it possible to blueprint Mountain Resilience for Resilient Leadership?
How can the tools and frameworks from ecology be applied at other types of organisations?
We realised we needed to talk to a lot of different people.
SOUND: LONDON STATION. We started by asking Satish Kumar, mentor and guide for the ecology movement. Luckily he had time to meet us in London.
VOICE: SATISH KUMAR Words have power only when they are practiced otherwise. Words have no power. You could say love but it has no power until you love someone you love or compassion. Word is compassion but unless you have a compassion in practice it has no power.
The power comes with practice; not ‘why’ but ‘how’ — how we implement it and the way always is from seed to tree, from small to large.
Start small, start wherever you are, the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. So start where ever you are, and by your authenticity, with your integrity, with your commitment, you will influence the others. So don’t worry about ‘how I influence others.’ You will influence others. There’s no way you cannot influence others, if you be the example and start, and do things what you want to do in your life and then others see it and they will be impressed, and they will follow you! This is how all big change happened. Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa — all these great people who have done.
SOUND: INTERLUDE TRAIN LONDON (We have a little issue on the train ahead, I hope to be departing shortly)-
VOICE: SATISH KUMAR
I could have had money. I did not go without money because I did not have money. But I went without money because I did not want to have money. And I said ‘money will not be a help,’ because when I’m walking for peace, I want to show that peace comes from trust.
If I go to Pakistan as an Indian, I meet a Pakistani. If I go as a Hindu, I meet a Muslim, or Christian, but if I trust them and I go as a human being, they are human beings. And with that trust. So, if you have money, then you go and stay in a hotel, or B&B, eat in a restaurant, buy your own things. You don’t need to trust anybody. You don’t need anybody, but if you don’t have money then you need people to help you. What is more important people or money?
You can have money and you have no people you cannot build a movement. But if you are people… then… So money is only a kind of means to an end. Money is not the answer. If you have no money that’s blessing. That’s a blessing. If you have no money, just have people, make friendship, work with people. Give service to people. They will help you. They will support you.
Money may make things easy, but money does not make things authentic. People offered me money, when I was starting to walk. But Vinobha, my teacher Vinobha Bhave, he said that go without money go without. He was great teacher. So Vinobha had no money. He practiced Kanchan Mukti, money free living. So, if people say ‘I have no money, say ‘you are blessed!’ People with lots of millions and billions of dollars and pounds, what good it is doing?
Why every single individual must own their own house? I think we have to go back to living more frugally and living with families. And when you live with the family have be more tolerant, you have to be more accepting. You have to be more kind. You have to be more compassionate. You have to be humble, because your parents will say something, your brothers will say something, your sister will say something. Why are you not doing like this? So you have to be humble…. so living in a family.
I think in the West we have too many houses, underused, big houses. One or two people living in four-bedroom houses. This is…. And then we take a mortgage, because we want individual, we want isolated. We are separate. We want on our own. Humility lacking. We can live in a community, share. Absolutely! Share.
And then if you do what you need to do. The money also will come. Money will also come. I’m not saying I’m not against money I’m not against money. Money is a useful invention. Money is useful for the means of exchange and so on. That’s OK. But money is not the end. Money is only a means to an end.
What is your end? We have to always ask. What is my end? I have to always ask. Everybody has to ask what am I living for? I’m not living for money. I’m looking for something ‘altruism’– something higher greater. And if I live for that people may give you money.
I did not have money for two and half years. People gave me food, people gave me clothes, people gave me shoes, people gave me even boat ticket from England to America — I went by boat. I had no money. People gave me a boat ticket. People give you everything. There is no shortage of money in the world.
There is a short of imagination, short of altruism, short of action. So money will come. Money will follow you like a shadow follows you. That’s what this is happens. You are not the shadow. The shadow is yours, but you are not of the shadow. So, money is a useful thing but don’t work for money. Don’t live for money. Money is money will be added do you do something bigger and greater, and more wonderful and more imaginative.
SOUND: FLOATING ICE
SATISH: The economy, traditional economy, has a very good, classic economy, when you study economics, it has a very good system. They say that three things you need for the economy. First, land, or nature. That’s a first. If you had no land, no forests, what’s the point? You can’t live.
Then second is labour; land, labour, capital. So, second is labour. Labour means people. And if people are true capital. Their imagination, their skills, they can build a house. They can make furniture. They can do things, they can… Their skills. The people are the capital. Nature is capital, people are capital, then money. Money facilitates, money is good at the third level, but if you put money at the top and put people and nature at the service of money and capital, then economics is skewed.
So, what you need is you need nature capital first. human capital second, because humans are nature. We are nature. We are made of earth, air, fire, water and, and basic elements. So nature is out there, in nature. We are also nature. Human skills, community, cooperation. As you said and imagination and the skills. Making things. Building a house. Building furniture. Making things. We’ve lost that. And this is why we become slaves of money.
I have two hands. This is the source of my income. My two hands can build a house, my two hands can grow food. I can eat. My two hands can make a jacket I can wear. My two hands can make a shoe, pair of shoes, I can wear. My two hands are the real money, and then when I make something, I can give it to you, and you can give me some money, but if I don’t make something then I make myself a slave of somebody and I do something but I’m told to do but I want it or not.
And so money, working for money, is a guarantee of enslavement. You’ll become a slave because you are working for money. So, money comes only third. Land, labour, capital. At the moment we have put capital at the top, and humans are servants of capital, and the nature is servants of Capital.
Equity requires social justice doesn’t it? And so, we have to work to create equity and social justice, so that everybody…. I call it Elegant Simplicity. Elegant simplicity. Because if you live Elegant Simplicity, that is a prerequisite for sustainability, because at the moment we make …make… make so much stuff and clutter our houses, and our hotels, and our buildings, and so on. It all comes from nature. We are turning nature into stuff, clutter.
And so for sustainability simplicity is prerequisite. Then for spirituality, for being contented and happy, we need a few things, because if you want lots of things, that you have to work hard, to make money then you have to work hard to buy. They have to work hard to look after them. It’s all time wasted in external things.
So, for your inner peace, you need a few things, you need good things; good food, good clothes, good furniture good something, but minimum – minimalism, basic. Enough is enough. Then it’s a spiritual, and then equity, social justice. If a few people have too much, others have too little. So, without equity without, social justice, economy is no good.
Economy must be accompanied with equity.
SOUND: FLOATING ICE
Elegant Simplicity means less stuff, less clutter; production not for profit, but production for need. Only purpose for production should be to meet the real, genuine need. Rather than equality I like the word equity, you said. Equity means we all have a stake in it. In the economy we all have a stake in our life. We have more… sort of we all share. Equality is a little bit sort of… like five fingers are not equal. They just some small. The thumb a small. This is big and they still work together.
So equity. They all have their share. They all have their function. They all support each other. Cooperate, collaborate, work together to hold– if I want to hold the glass, all the fingers were equal will not be right, but my thumb needs to be with a smaller but larger, so it can hold the glass and, and, etc.
So, I would say your word ‘equity’ is a more appropriate word, and if you have equity, than equality would be an automatic. More or less everybody would meet their need. Somebody can eat more, somebody can eat a bit less, doesn’t matter. Somebody can have a slightly bigger body, somebody can have a smaller body, somebody can have a bit… Doesn’t it matter, as long as everybody feel part of it.
Equity is there, everybody feel ‘I am part of it.’ So even a small child is a part of the family. Even an old person of that not the same age, but they have a share. They have equity in the family. So, I prefer the word equity to equality. I mean equality is good. But equality is not, not as, um, kind of neutral and as the kind of idealistic as equity. In the family, not everyone is equal, but everybody has a stake in the family, and family is a good model. But they all have harmony and equity, I think. Equal rights. Yeah. Everybody had a dignity. Everybody equally respected. No ownership, just relationship.
SOUND: TRAIN STATION LONDON
Recently I was coming to London and I was at the train station and there was somebody cleaning and sweeping the floor and cleaning and keeping the station very neat and beautiful. And I went to him and I said thank you for cleaning our station, without you keeping this in such a nice way we wouldn’t be so happy, there would be clutter and dirt and dust and so on. Thank you very much. I said this to this person and he was surprised.
“Nobody thanked me like that. Thank you. I’m glad you noticed that I’m cleaning.”
People don’t thank people who are cleaning your station, but without them cleaning, your station would be so awful hopefully you won’t enjoy being there. So, they are as important as the station master, or the person who to show you the ticket, or the person who is driving the train, or person who is managing the train. If the cleaner was not there, station will not be good.
SOUND: FLOATING ICE AGAIN… continues in background
If you have a proper Craftsmanship and if you make something really by hand, as a craftsman, machine can never make as beautiful, and as perfect tool, as human hands can make. So let’s promote craftsmanship and interdependence together.
Don’t be a consumer, be a maker. A human being is not a consumer. He’s a maker. We are all makers we can make something. The moment you say you are a consumer, you are putting the dignity of humanity down.
I’m not a consumer. I refuse to be called a consumer. I’m a maker. I make something. I make books. I make a garden. I make kitchen. I make good food, I make things. I’m a maker. And when I made something I eat it. When I grew food, I eat it. I made clothes I wear it. Consuming is a by-product. Not of consuming — it’s living you are not a consumer. Don’t be a consumer be a maker, and you can learn to be a maker. You’ve got two hands. Your hands are miracle.
At the universities, they are being told that the only way to progress is industrialisation, urbanisation, consumerism, economic growth, all these paradigm, and they are being brainwashed for five years. Day after day after day.
I think your 3 principles of Dignity of Labour, Interdependence and Interconnectivity are fundamental. Now the corporations and corporate world is becoming aware of the issues, and that’s a good opening.
Sweden is a good place to start. Because Sweden… it was Sweden, Stockholm where the first environment conference took place in 1972, and I was there– the first U.N. conference on the environment, and that’s where the limits to growth blueprint for survival; many, many things were launched there, I was speaking there in the forum, and I was invited by the government of Sweden. And so even in ‘72 they were becoming avantgarde. That’s amazing. Sweden as I said, a lot of awareness, and lots of people are doing very good work there. And it’s one of the pioneer countries….
It’s very important for people to be the change then communicate the change and then organise the change. First of all, I want to congratulate all those activists on the front line.
You are the champions and the leaders of today and tomorrow, and what you are doing is courageous and you are not being self-centred, but you are doing something for the planet Earth and for the whole of humanity. And if we do not take a new direction of sustainability, and resilience, then our future is in jeopardy. And therefore, I want to congratulate and say that what you are doing is absolutely wonderful. It is on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai – many, many great women and men have taken such courageous path to stand up for their values and speak the truth to power. And that is what you are doing. And so, I want to support you wholeheartedly.
And what I always say is are three steps towards transformation and change. The first step is Be the Change that you want to see in the world. Second step is: Communicate the change, through poetry, through writing, through books, through plays, through theatre, through music, through demonstrating, through whatever you are doing. Communicate so that other people become aware of it, and then organise the change.
And that’s in a way what, many, many marches and many, many demonstrations are doing. They are, and you are doing that, so that’s wonderful. So be the change. Communicate the change effectively and organise the change. Then change is coming. Transformation is on it’s way
SOUND: SATISH ENDING XR SOUND FROM SOPHIE JENNA; XR SONG
And we will be there.
SOUND:: XR SOUND SAMPLE FROM EMMA WALLACE, SONG
35:21 MARIJN VAN DE GEER My name’s Marijn Van De Geer and I’m in London. I am the co-founder of ‘Resolution:Possible’ which is a research company. And I’m also an active member of Extinction. Within the political circle of Extinction Rebellion, I am one of the coordinators for the citizens assembly working group.
XR SOUND SAMPLE, MARIJN COMMENTARY MARCH
“This is an incredible moment. I’ll try and describe it to you the best I can but…. People from Land’s End, Truro, Stroud, Swansea, Reading, I’m sure I’m leaving loads out. It’s just. Kind of coming together. I am now being welcomed by XR London in Hyde Park…. All of XR is coming together. In Hyde Park, this afternoon, it’s amazing….
“It’s been incredible. I think it’s exceeded our wildest expectations really. We didn’t think we would be on the streets for nearly two weeks. The movement has been growing ever since it started back in October 2018.
And then we got quite a lot of media attention at the time, for blocking off five bridges. We did also have a lot of new people joining us. We were blocking roads and causing disruption, but also, I genuinely believe that a lot of people didn’t quite get the severity of the climate and the ecological crisis.
We got more media coverage and it became better known what it was that we were about and what we wanted. People really started looking into it, accessing the science. The vast majority of people who sort of joined us after November, said to us “We have no idea how bad it was we had no idea that we were talking in terms of climate breakdown and ecological collapse within our own lifetimes.”mIt’s not sort of something in a hundred years, it’s something that’s going to be happening within the next decade. As soon as you realise that, people were like “Right OK, yes disruption seems extreme and you know civil disobedience. But actually, it is extreme what we’re facing.” It’s… it’s a justified method.
SOUND: XR SOUND SAMPLE FROM SOPHIE JENNA; XR SINGING
So since November it’s just grown so much, people have joined us and approached Extinction Rebellion and either said “Yes, we’ll come and do actions” or you know they wanted to be more deeply involved and said we want to join working groups.
We give people non-violent direct-action training and VDA training, so they learn to de-escalate potentially aggressive situations –because we’re so focussed on being a non-violent movement. It sort of gives people the skills. Because it’s a tense situation when you’re sitting there on the street and there’s dozens of police officers, sort of around you, and telling you to go away.
Generally, the police in the UK, anyway in London, have been incredible. But it’s still very intimidating and quite scary. And to then have this kind of training in the back of your mind saying you know “these are the things to say. and this is how you react.”
There’s a lot of chanting and singing and (laughter) so it all becomes quite surreal really. But having that training is just so important.
SOUND: XR SOUND SAMPLE– XR TRAINING
XR Trainer: “So um many, many, difficult situations will be eased by fun and music and singing and those kinds of things so we can do those kinds of things and that will often um ease a lot of tensions. But if that doesn’t work, the first thing you can do, is you can put your hand up, like this, and fall silent. Look you see everybody is doing it, and as soon as you put your hand up, we all know this don’t we?
Okay. There’s another one you can do, if that doesn’t work, which is… maybe you can do this guys um uh clap once if you can hear, me clap twice if you can hear me. Clap three times if we can’t hear me. Okay so we’re all familiar with that. So that’s to establish silence. To establish silence when there’s some violence going off will already create a different kind of a vibe.
Okay so that might be enough. If it isn’t enough. The next thing you can do is sit down. OK, So you’re sitting down and let’s pretend I am the aggressor so facing you guys, sitting down, and that already creates a situation where my violence, if I was a violent person will be exposed by having all these people sitting down around me.
If that doesn’t work the next stage after that is to start chanting and the chant that I’m recommending it goes “We’re non-violent. How about you?” (laughter) Okay. So do you want to try that.
Someone in crowd: “Now don’t you think that’s a bit o the aggressive side?” (Laughter) Chanting: “We’re non-violent. How about you? We’re non violent. How about you? We’re non violent. How about you?” Crowd: We’re non violent. How about you?”
MARIJN VAN DE GEER:
Everybody in the movement has to have the non-violent civil disobedience training, but then also if you decide to sign up as what we call an “arrestable” – so if you’ve put yourself forward to saying I’m willing to do disruption until I get to that point where I will get arrested.
Then you also have the arrestee training. So that’s where you get told everything, what your rights are, what the procedure will be when you get taken into custody.
Behind the scenes of Extinction Rebellion it is truly remarkable. There’s just all these incredible volunteers who are keeping track of where all the Arrestables are being taken which police stations. There’s legal observers at every action so they have the sort of bright orange bibs on, and they take down the names of the people getting arrested.
They take down the names of the officers who are the arresting officers and then they sort of have a rota at all the police stations. And as you can imagine, in April you know we had over a thousand people arrested. So, this was a big project for people to ensure that there were always people waiting for the arrestables, to come out of the police stations.
It is quite intimidating being arrested. At the beginning you’re always with your arresting officer. I was really lucky that I had a really nice officer. But then you are put in a cell by yourself for many hours.
SOUND: XR SOUND SAMPLE FROM SOPHIE JENNA: SOFT SONG
You do kind of need that little bit of TLC afterwards, because it is very disorientating; you have no idea what time it is and it’s all very confusing.
It was really something that was happening all over the world not just in London. All over the world, people were doing actions in the name of their own Extinction Rebellion groups. It was it was hugely inspiring knowing that you know while we were sitting on the streets in central London we knew that people were doing the exact same thing all over the world.
And it has to be like that obviously, because we’re talking about climate change and an environmental breakdown, so, we can’t just have one country committing and everybody else carrying on as usual. It has to be a global effort.
SOUND: SHORT CHEERING
The ideas; you know so we have the pink boats on Oxford Circus and we had the garden bridge at Waterloo Bridge. You know these incredible creative ideas and also you know the logistics of the camps. So Marble Arch was kind of our main camp, but there was a reception area, and there was a Regenerative Culture tent, where there was yoga every morning, this incredible cooking crew on every site, and throughout the time when we were occupying the streets we had new recruits coming to us — at least three new rebel inductions per day for nearly 2 weeks.
When it all comes together it’s just amazing. Even when police in the end took the pink boat away, someone like immediately created this massive sign saying “We are the boat” because obviously having something big symbolic, removed from site was sort of quite sad, you know, our boat!
SOUND: DRUM & BELL
We were all there together and it was just incredible. It was such a such an amazing coming together of people from all walks of life. The sense of community there was amazing. There were people from all over the UK, from all sorts of backgrounds.
We actually had taxi drivers actually joining us in the end you know because they were like: “Well I have children too. And something does need to change, and I can’t just say you know I’m going to now individually do something. I need the support of the government to help us navigate through this crisis.”
There were farmers from all over the country, inner city young people. It was a huge mix, especially amongst the youth. I think they were just so diverse. Then you have people well in their 80s who were camping out. I mean it was just incredibly humbling actually to see people who are you know my grandmother’s age, who were sitting on the bridge at Waterloo, and they were like well “Well we will actually be the first ones to be arrested because we don’t want these young people to have criminal records, and impeding on their potential future working life.” They were like arrest us the old people, we’re happy to take this on.
They kind of sat in front of all these young people and took on that duty of getting arrested first. It was incredible. And you know then when the first thing they ask you is why aren’t you just privileged white middle class people?
What can you do? I think we all learned to shrug a lot at the media and the weird stuff they came out with.
We initially started buying a lot of food because we’d managed to raise quite a lot of money to be able to buy supplies in bulk to supply to or to the kitchens in the various sites. But we also started getting donations from actual food companies. There’s a company called Riverford. They’re based in Devon and they supplied us with loads of fresh fruit and veg and you know feeding the Rebellion. So there’s a lot of amazing people stepped forward to help. Everyone was provided for.
It was a moment in history. At the moment obviously it’s early days. I hope that it will prove to be a positive moment in history, certainly.
So, it was very exciting when the UK parliament declared a climate emergency a few days ago, but obviously now we are actually watching to see what that will actually entail.
We want the creation of a Citizens Assembly to navigate through what the climate emergency is actually going to entail on a practical level. What change that’s going to bring to all of our lives here in the U.K.
It’s one thing declaring an emergency, and obviously it’s one of our demands, and it’s hugely important that Parliament has taken this seriously and that they are talking about it and that an emergency has been declared, but it doesn’t have any teeth yet, so’s to speak. It doesn’t mean anything yet. And that’s what we need to focus on now.
With the Michael Gove meeting, who’s the Environment Secretary, last week, he kind of talked us through all the things that the government had already done. You know what a waste of time. Why are you telling me this? We already know this. Stop telling us how amazing you think you are. I can’t believe that in 2019. This is how government functions.
SOUND: XR SOUND SAMPLE – XR CHANTING LONDON, THE SINGING
Now! Now! Now! No more waiting! No hesitating! We need to build a revolution, And we need to start right now.
The only thing I am hopeful for is that if we get deliberative democracy to supplement the current system. I think it’s the only way forward. This is the aim is that we will have a national citizens assembly on climate emergency. So that would be on a national level.
We need to have national policies with teeth that can that can address the big strong corporations and that government has the mandate and the strength to say “No” – no fracking no Heathrow expansion no this no that.
Those things have to come on a national level, or even an international level. There needs to be systematic, systemic change….so it’s not just out of the goodness of the individual’s hearts that this needs to happen. We also need to hold governments and corporations accountable as well.
Time is ticking.
SOUND SAMPLE FROM EMMA WALLACE, SONG REFRAIN.
52:35 SITI KASIM
SOUND SAMPLE: ORANG ASLI FLUTE MUSIC FROM SITI
My name is Siti Kasim. I’m a lawyer by profession in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. You see, I used to do a lot of human rights cases, children rights, the refugees, but then I discovered that I can’t be saving the world, you know. I must focus on one or two issues.
So, I actually take my work with the indigenous people in the peninsula of Malaysia. I can expand my knowledge about the law to the Orang Asli community. So, I go into the interior a lot, into the jungle to the villagers and to their settlements, and I told them that they do have rights, and that they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and you know, take up that right.
Of course, they have their own activists as well. The Orang Asli activists. I don’t charge this kind of thing.
SOUND: MUSIC CONTINUES
They are the eco warriors, indigenous people. They are the front line of our nature conservation. We should recognise that because the way they preserve the balance of the ecosystem is the way they live.
For example, they have their ‘Pantang’, meaning that they can do certain things in their culture. It’s been going down for generations. But there is a reason for it is actually to preserve the balance of the ecosystem.
So these are their rule.
The Tamaya tribe… They told me that they will never touch the tiger because to them the tiger is very powerful, powerful in the sense of spirit-wise. They revere the tiger very much.
In the olden days. Of course, nowadays no more because of the settlement built by the government — They plant their rice and everything for your own sustenance. And after a while they will shift –rotating. That’s the word. Yeah, so it’s a rotating thing and so it’s how they preserve it! And people don’t understand that it’s beneficial to the earth.
Generally, Malaysia’s people support that we help our indigenous people, but when it comes to religion, they become much more possessive. They don’t like the truth, you know, people hate to hear the truth. With me nothing is too sensitive. Ha ha!
But we still must keep on pushing the boundary. Otherwise we are never going to improve. That’s what I believe anyway.
I mean human rights is something that it was not ‘given.’ It’s already born with us. We are born with rights as a human being.
Our country is unique you know, Malaysia, because we have so many cultures so many races and it all have different ways. I know I have many, many supporters I know, I know I have very, very good people around me. I think I’m blessed with a strong constitution by God that I don’t really care about what people see online because I know myself. I’m very confident about who I am and what I am. I think, women, we evolve better than men. Haha!
I notice from my fifty-five. Coming up the 56 years old I noticed that the more religious a person, the more closed their mind would be, they are limiting their minds to the barriers that build up or walls that they build up for themselves based on their faith or their beliefs.
I just think that religion should not be imposed on anyone.
Even the indigenous people in Malaysia right they do not have a religion. But of course, these people that do go into the interior you know where a majority of them live, trying to spread the faith. What we call a Datwa, missionary. Islam and Christians usually do this. They go into the jungle where the Orang Asli reside and then be tried to get as many as possible of the indigenous people. What we call them as Orang Asli here to convert to the faith either Christian or Islam.
The problem with our Indigenous people, the Orang Asli, in Malaysia, they are also determined by law who can be an Orang Asli. You are only an Orang Asli, An Indigenous person, If one of your parents is Orang Asli and you are practicing your culture, and the 3rd one that you must be able to speak the language of your tribe.
And so these three things– if you don’t practice one you are no longer Orang Asli. Like for Malay, Once you are a Malay, you’re a Muslim automatically. It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, there’s method by on people as you are.
But with the Orang Asli, so once they convert to Islam or Christianity then they are being taught not to practice a certain aspect of their culture, because it is not accepted that in your new faith.
In fact, it has been used by government before.
When we took matters to court on behalf of the Orang Asli, pro bono of course, they become smarter and smarter government lawyers. They question us: Are these litigants really Orang Asli, it is really crazy.
If you go and see these or ask leave the interior and you meet the older generation, those who knew the British during their governance, they only have good things to say about the British.
The older Orang Asli always say that the British looked after them very well. Their health was taken care of and in fact until now Even if you’re white you go into the interior, they look up very highly towards white people because they still have these remnants of memories on how the British treated them.
They always said that the British treated them better than the government of Malaysia. They probably felt they were much more better off because there was no palm oil being opened up on their land, they were not forced to move out from their villages. They were not forced to do anything they didn’t want to. With the new government, obviously I think that intention is probably noble.
They want to try and help to improve the life of the Orang Asli by bringing them out and even amongst others who integrate to assimilate they want to try and assimilate the Orang Asli to become Malays.
Just take out these jungle people and help them. This is what they think. What I see even now the majority of people do not try to understand the psyche of the Orang Asli the indigenous people.
People don’t understand. There is no way you can actually expect them to live like us. Why don’t you ask them? When you see them sleeping and resting? How many days were you in the jungle to try and find their sustenance?
It’s not easy. Just couple of hours you go into the jungle. You know how hard it is. But when they go into the jungle they go for a couple of days. Can do that as a town person?
To be honest I would say ninety-nine-point nine percent of the logging– they are all legal. They are all legal. This is the problem. People think that there are many illegal loggings in Malaysia. No, no, it’s not even illegal.
They do get the licence from the State Government. They do get the licence from our forestry department. They are supported by our politician and the State Government. This is where the problem lies because a lot of corruption going on they don’t care about the well-being of the forest.
They don’t understand the forest is related to us leaving in pounds you know they cannot relate to that. Even one of our ministers– not the current government yet because they are only about not even one year. I’m talking about the previous government, one minister actually said that the palm oil they consider as forests. You are a minister you must find out what is really the international world consider as forest.
They say they planted that the palm oil tree. So, it’s a tree. You know ha! It’s really hard when people are making decisions without understanding the nature of our Orang Asli. They use poisonous things you know pesticides. But what they don’t understand is that all these pesticides seep into the ground and go into the water and into the river where the Orang Asli use for the drinking water when they leave amongst the palm oil plantation. A lot of the Orang Asli
Actually they have a lot of problems you know with skin disease and generally not healthy if they lice actually in and around the plantation. Yes, I know the current Malaysian government are pretty upset with the European Union because they say they’re not going to buy any more palm oil from Malaysia. I support that the EU action.
But of course the government is worried because they have to maintain the economy right. Why don’t the government actually insure no more forest being cut down?
Recently the opening Durian King (aka Kind of the Fruits) because Durian King now commands more value than the palm oi! Some state governments now allow allowing these companies that want to plant durian in the middle of the jungle!
This is the fight right now that we have with the Kelantan government. They have given this company M7 a ten thousand hectare to plant more sun king durian at the expense of the Orang Asli.
…Even right now they have already trampled on the Orang Asli graveyard. You know a lot of things, so this makes them very upset of course, but M7 is quite rich. They do everything they can not to abide by the noise made by NGOs as well as the public we have a federal government and then we have the state government.
And then the federal government cannot decide on land, when it comes to land. Only the State Government can decide. Power within the state government. When it comes to issues of land– so the federal government cannot tell for example Kelantan, Why don’t you just give these indigenous people the land be one not not because you want to destroy it. They want to make sure that all the things they need for their nobody wants to give up. No way. Because the land where the Orang Asli actually live or seek is so valuable.
This government is trying to do something to help in which I’m very proud of. It is a first action. Which our federal governments. They can suing the state government for taking the rights of the Orang Asli on your land. So this is the first case maybe perhaps in the world that a federal government suing a state government under the law.
The Orang Asli comes under federal law. You see ,they have the fiduciary duty to make sure that Orang Asli lives are not affected by so-called modernization. But after so many, many years the Orang Asli in Kelantan have done so many blocking. Even fighting contractors, who use weapons as well. You know trying to scare the Orang Asli kids. They persevere.
This is the first case that our federal government sued the companies as well as the State Government. This is the first case now. We are very excited about it actually.
All this while is with us the lawyers the lawyers are the one would think methods to court on behalf of the audacity of course pro bono. I can tell you one hand only the same lawyers will be doing the same. He says while we Indigenous people despite all the cases in support of the rights of the Orang Asli history, our governments before never, never make a policy out of those cases because as you know cases are actually laws.
But they don’t. They don’t care. In respect they do respect at all. The case not actually started yet….
Yes, there are a lot of other application made by the companies and the state governments. So they are asking for a stay on this, on and even if the xxx application just like Najiv case they keep on these two delay matters.
There used to be about 18 tribes, OK, or what used to be 18 tribes, in the peninsula of Malaysia. ….And some tribes have totally wiped out. Basically.
For example, right now no more- no more. Only by name only. Right now, we only have very few of the Bateks. OK. And also the Jahai, these are most shy people, very shy and they are from the ‘negrito’ line. And these are the people. Yes. They are very, very, very, shy. You know during the big flood back in 2016?. I remember now the big flood in Kelantan. I heard story about where the Jahai people live behind the Malay Kampung, you come home Malay couple Malay village and I don’t actually leave behind further behind.
So, when the food aid came people just dropped at the first Malay village. Yeah and the food never being passed on to the Jahai village at the back. They always stop these cars from going further. And these Jahai people will not even come out– they don’t come out to demand their rights to take the food. No they won’t. You will not fight. You will not argue with you. Yeah. This is not just not them. So a very few left.
And what I am also worried for our Indigenous people that soon you know will be no more. So, the whole of Malaysia the population is about 35 million. But for the indigenous people Orang Asli, in the peninsula, there are about 200 to 250 thousand. That’s all.
They are only a drop in the ocean. There be no more of Orang Asli in Malaysia. In Sabah Sarawak there are many, many more. Mostly there –mostly in Sabah Sarawak. Only a few tribes left but they considered themselves to be different. They prefer to be on your own if they can.
I hope to see something just serious dangers in another year’s time hopefully. Otherwise I think we have to think about a third force.
We must keep on fighting in what we believe!
SOUND:NOSE FLUTE CONTINUES, MERGING INTO SWEDISH SUMMER SOUNDS
SOUND: SWEDEN SUMMER SOUNDS
Thank you for listening to our first episode! Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife.net production, created with the support of the Nordic Ministries.
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Many thanks to Satish Kumar and Elaine Green for their ongoing support and encouragement. Satish is also the editor of Resurgence magazine, and the guiding spirit behind the internationally-respected Schumacher College in the UK. Please see resurgence.org and Schumachercollege.org.uk
Many thanks to Marijn van de Geer, founder of the consultancy Resolution: Possible. Thanks to Extinction Rebellion members Emma Wallace and Sophie Jenna who also shared their Rebellion sound recordings with us. Please see extinctionrebellion.com to read more about the movements demands for transparency and climate justice.
Thank you to Siti Kasim, lawyer, activist and writer of the column Siti Thots on the Star Online.
That’s (spells it). The flute music is a nose flute played by an indigenous Orang Asli man from the Temiar tribe in Kelantan.
All the sounds have been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find him via diego losa.blogspot.com.
You can see Ajay’s project on foundnature.org. and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.
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