Episode 12: ON GOOD COUNTRIES


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Sound: Podcast opens with recording of Orang Asli in Malaysia playing a nose flute

Tanya’s voice; intro:

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

In this episode ON GOOD COUNTRIES, you will hear from Simon Anholt, an internationally renowned policy advisor who has helped over 50 nations use the Good Country Equation for education and development.

Over the course of his long and colourful career, Simon’s ultimate aim was to help increase the type of international cooperation that can solve the challenges of globalisation; from climate change, pandemics, and extremism, to slavery, war, poverty and inequality.

His core message to world leaders is simple; do good and good will come to you; change the way nations behave because our survival depends on it.

Simon’s latest book, The Good Country Equation: How We Can Repair the World in One Generation is full of amusing and sometimes surreal anecdotes from his years of travelling the far-flung places of the word.

Opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Valletta, Malta.

Sound: Ambient sound/music intro fades to Skype ringing

Simon Anholt Voice:
Hi, my name is Simon Anholt.
I’m in my study at home and I’m in the middle of the countryside, so out of the windows I can see nothing but trees at the moment, which is really nice….just kind of quite far away from anybody else, which is very nice.


And what am I? Well, I normally call myself a policy adviser because my day job is advising governments on policy.

A policy is one of those words that can mean all kinds of stuff. Basically, what I do is I advise governments on how they should behave and particularly towards other governments and the people of other countries and the international institutions.

So, I’m not really very interested in what governments ‘say.’ I’m not interested in messaging. I think that’s all a bit boring and shallow.

What I’m interested in is what countries do- and what governments do. So, when I call myself a policy adviser, I suppose that’s what I mean. I advise them on how to behave.

Asking the right questions
If I if I had a euro every time a government has come to me with a question that turns out to be the wrong question, I would probably have about 39 euros by now.

The countries are very difficult, very complicated things, and it’s very hard even for the people who are running them to know what the main issues are. And it has happened so often to me during my career that governments have come to me thinking they’ve got one kind of problem and it turns out they’ve got another.

Researching a country as an outsider
The first thing I like to do when.. when… I’m working with a country is to try to get to know it as well as I can. I mean, it’s very obvious that as an outsider, I’m never going to be nearly as much of an expert about the country. I’m advising as its own citizens, not if I live there, even for the rest of my life. But then again, that’s not what I claim to be. I don’t claim to be an expert in their country.

What I do claim to be as an expert on the rest of the world in a very general sense. But even so, I do need to try and become as much of an expert as possible, so, I read mainly, and particularly in these days, when travelling is so difficult, reading is even more important, so, I try to read as many books as I possibly can. I normally spend about four or five weeks at the beginning just reading; novels and history books and portraits of the country and listening to music and reading poetry and literature and watching the movies.

And then when I actually go to the country, I spend weeks and weeks going around just meeting as many different people of different sorts and different parts of the country as I possibly can. And gradually a picture begins to build up and it can only ever be a superficial one, but it’s of some value.

EAIE Helsinki Keynote talk, September 2019.

The book; The Good Country Equation
Well, I wrote the good country equation because I had to. Otherwise I would have burst. I’ve spent the last 20 or probably more than 20 years going around working with governments and often with presidents and prime ministers and kings and queens in 56 or 57 countries around the world.

And I don’t know whether it’s me or whether it’s just something to do with the job. But every country I go to, something extraordinary always happens. I always have some weird conversation or some weird experience, and it’s happy or funny or dangerous or exciting or potentially life threatening. And for years and years I’ve been doing this job and I come back and everybody I know says, you know, you should really write a book about all this stuff. Nobody will believe a word of it, but you still got to do it. And so eventually, after about 20 years, I thought, I will write this book.

But I wanted to make it primarily autobiographical, not because I want to see myself as the hero or anything like that, but just because I wanted it to be readable. See, I’m very interested in the state of the world and what’s gone wrong with the world, as many of us are.

Everybody in the world should be interested in what’s gone wrong with the world and trying to find out whatever they can about it. So, I thought what I’ll do is I’ll make this a tragic and comical autobiographical travelogue and I’ll write it in colour, if you know what I mean. So, it won’t be a black and white textbook. It’ll be a colour book with stories and places and people and anecdotes and funny things and sad things and frightening things and inspiring things. And then I’ll weave into that the story of how I gradually, country after country after country, began to figure out what really has gone wrong with the world. And then I can start weaving in what I think we ought to do in order to fix it.

As a child….
Now, I don’t know what it is about me, but when I was a kid and I was growing up, I just always assumed that people from other countries were going to be more interesting than people from my own country. And I always assumed also that other people’s countries were going to be more exciting and more beautiful and more interesting than my own country. And I thought this was normal. And gradually, as I grew up, I discovered that it wasn’t normal. And in fact, the older I got, the more uncommon I found it to be. And I’ve discovered that actually an awful lot of people think that people from other countries are going to be less interesting than people from their own country and that other people’s countries are going to be less interesting than their own country. And I don’t judge them in any way because of that. But I realize that we are different. So at the very heart of the book, there is this assumption that being a human being is more interesting than being a Swede or a Brit or a Guatemalan or a Kenyan.

And that the most interesting thing about us is certainly not the fact that we have a passport from a particular country, but that we belong to this extraordinary, remarkable, infuriating species called humanity.

My world view is in many ways a really simple one, in fact, simplicity is a good place to start, because one of the things I say very early on in the book is that over the years I’ve come to revere simplicity. And I don’t mean the kind of simplicity that comes from only seeing the surface of things, which is very, very common these days. What I’m always aiming for is the simplicity that comes from seeing through the surface of things because the surface seems so complicated. But the basic truths underneath are really often very simple and so many of the complex issues that we’re facing today as an international community, Present themselves in a way which is terrifyingly complex, but actually underneath we’ve got to hold onto those simple truths and those simple values.

With government officials in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Two ‘simple’ underlying issues
So, what’s wrong with the world? Well, a Good Country Equation. I said it was simple. There are two things wrong with the world. The first one is the way that countries behave, and the second one is the way that people behave. And that may seem absurdly simple, but it is worth stating it. What’s wrong with countries is that they don’t work together enough to resolve the gigantic global challenges that humanity is facing in the 21st century.

You take all of these big challenges, what the United Nations calls the Sustainable Development Goals are attached to these. So, climate change, migration, human rights abuses, conflict, everything from narco trafficking and small arms proliferation right the way up to pandemics. All of these challenges have got one thing in common. They were all caused by human beings. And therefore, they can all be fixed by human beings.

The other thing that they all have in common is that they’re all globalized, they don’t exist in just one country, they are connected through globalization to every country in the world.
And that’s why it’s impossible for any individual country to solve any of them. America can’t fix the economic turmoil. China can’t fix migration. The European Union can’t fix climate change because these issues are too big and too connected. And so it’s not that we don’t know the answers, the solutions to these problems. We do. We know the solutions to all of these problems. We’ve known them for years. But the reason why we don’t implement those solutions is because countries don’t work together to do it. And so we never bring enough resources to bear towards tackling those problems. So when I say that one of the problems in the world is the fact that countries don’t work together, it’s literally just that they don’t work together frequently or thoroughly or sincerely enough to make proper progress against the vast majority of these global challenges. So, we need to change the culture of governance worldwide from one that’s fundamentally competitive to one that’s fundamentally collaborative. And I guess that’s the main theme of the book.

Sound: Mindfulness bell

The role of corporations

I’m really interested in corporations and their role in this debate. It’s certainly true and I do say so in the book, that corporations influence, or perhaps I should say govern the lives of just as many people or nearly as many people as governments do. And we most of us spend most of our working lives in association with corporations.

So the power and the influence they have over human behaviour is in our modern age, almost as much as the power exercised by governments, and the corporations themselves, of course, many of them are bigger than countries, many of them are richer than countries. Many of them are more powerful than countries. So I think that’s probably where the good country argument goes next. What is a good company?

And I know we will talk about the Good Country Index later on, but the idea of a good company index has been up there in my wish list of things I wish I could do if there were only a few more hours in the  day- Religions, of course, influence the lives and the values and the behaviours of just as many people as corporations and governments.

I’ve talked mainly about nations because I think they’re the problem, and I have a bit of an issue with the whole idea of nation and nationalism, as many of us do. And again, what I didn’t really have time to do, either in the book or in my career so far, is to start drilling down to the level of smaller communities which are critically important and for very good reasons, more important to people than their nations. I find it easier to feel loyalty towards the village I live in than towards the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is just a construct like most nations.

Outward versus inward mentality.
One of the most dangerous ideas in the world at the moment is that there are two species of person, the globalists and the localists. And this is a dangerous idea because with it comes the idea that we should hate each other and that we should mistrust each other and spend all of our time screaming abuse at each other. And this is daft because all human beings, as far as I can tell, are to some degree localists and to some degree globalists. It’s just a question of which degree we’re all both most of the time. And of course, we have to work together.
I mean, I’m I happen to be so busy thinking about global stuff that I don’t spend nearly as much time as I ought to worrying about the problems of the little village I live in.
It’s obvious that we should be collaborating in the same way that young people and adults should be collaborating, in the same way that people from different nationalities should be collaborating. It’s so blindingly obvious.

Yes, I mean, there’s no question that a national image is, for most people, a seamless extension of their self-image. And even if you don’t regard yourself as particularly nationalistic or patriotic or proud or whatever, there is a space in your heart for the thing that is your country and that you’re born in and so we humans have spent so much time and effort and worry over the centuries trying to forcibly instil this idea of national belonging and national identity.

I think we’ve forgotten the original purpose of it. The original purpose of it was to fight wars, and it was instilled in people very, very deeply. The idea that the noblest thing that a young man could do was to sacrifice his life for the fatherland, which is such an obviously ridiculous idea. And that’s why it took so long and so much effort to brainwash people into believing it.

And of course, in order to make it work, they had to brainwash all the women, the mothers and the sisters and the daughters. Also to encourage these young men, I mean, to tell a young man to go himself, get a gun and get himself blown to bits is not so very difficult because young men kind of want that to try and persuade all those much more sensible women to persuade them of the same thing was an altogether harder task. But it’s worked. And nowadays that is very, very deeply ingrained.

I think this is ultimately about human development. When a baby is born, it only really feels loyalty to itself and its need to survive and its mother. And then gradually, that sense of loyalty will extend to the father, if he’s lucky, and to the immediate family and then maybe to the village and then on and on and on. It goes to the nation state where it stops and that’s where it gets stuck. And feeling loyalty to anything bigger than the nation state seems to be a problem for the vast majority of us. And I think that human development has got stuck at the nation state.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving your country. I think that’s in many ways quite natural. But loving your country, not loving your nation, to love your nation is to love its army or to love its president. And very often goes with the idea that other people’s nations are inferior or don’t quite deserve to occupy their space on the surface of the planet as much as yours does. And that’s when it starts becoming problematic.


Understanding that we all belong
I think it’s absolutely true that the sense of belonging to a nation is fundamentally a very different thing from a sense of belonging to a smaller place, like a like a village or a town or even a city state, for the simple reason that a nation state isn’t actually a thing that exists in the real world. It’s an intellectual construct.

And so us feeling right, this this feeling that we belong to an intellectual construct is part of the modern mindset that detaches us ever more from the reality of nature. I can still remember, and I describe it in the book, the very first time I went up in a plane and I was a geography nerd, I used to read Atlas in bed. And when I looked out of the plane window for the first time and I couldn’t see those thick black lines on the ground dividing one country from another, I was really surprised and disappointed. But it reminds us that this thing called a nation of this thing called a country, it’s an invention. And if you identify yourself as belonging to an invention, then there’s something not quite right there.

Well, I hope that the first thing that people consider about me, if they consider me, is not my nationality, because, you know, like so many of us, I’m a terrific mongrel anyway. So many different races and religions and creeds and nationalities go inside the soup that makes me who I am. And so I find it very, very difficult to identify or associate with any particular country.

My country, the United Kingdom, where I was born, like most countries, has done an enormous amount of absolutely hellish things. And it’s done an enormous amount of really quite creditable things, as have most countries.

With Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, a Chilean politician who served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018.

What is a good country?

But the point that I really wanted to make was a slightly different one. People often are a little bit puzzled by this phrase. I keep using a good country and they mean, well, who? And they say, who are you to decide whether a country is good or bad? And the thing that I say is I’m trying to use the word ‘good’, not as the opposite of bad, but good, the opposite of selfish. And a good country is not in any sense a virtuous country. It’s a country very simply that succeeds in harmonizing its responsibilities towards its own people and its own territory, with its responsibilities towards other people and other territories.

And that’s the rule for life on earth in the 21st century. Countries and corporations and universities and villages and all groups of people need to harmonize their domestic and their international responsibilities so that everything they do for their own people and their own slice of territory. Does no harm or preferably even does good to people outside that territory and to places outside that territory.

With President Heinz Fischer of Austria, who was was elected Federal President of Austria in April 2004, and re-elected for a second and final term in 2010.

The most common myth
So, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had during my career advising governments is to persuade prove to governments that it is actually possible to be a good country, to harmonize the inside and the outside responsibilities. Because the interesting thing about all of these politicians I’ve worked with is that it doesn’t actually make any difference which party they come from, whether they’re left wing or right wing or turbo jet propulsion unit. I really don’t know that it makes any difference at all where they come from. They all believe the same thing, which is that anything you do that’s good for your own people is going to harm people in other countries. And anything you do that’s good for the planet and the environment is somehow going to curtail your economic growth or harm your own people or harm your own territory. And this seems to be an article of faith that all politicians have absorbed. And it’s absolutely not true.

One of the really lucky things for me about doing the job that I do and working with so many different countries is that I’ve had the opportunity over the years to try out real policies in real countries to see whether it’s possible to harmonize the domestic and international responsibilities. And what I’ve discovered is that not only is it possible, it also makes better policies, it makes more imaginative thinking and imaginative thinking is what we desperately need in the 21st century.

Not only is it possible to do the right thing for your own people and for people in other countries, it actually means that you’ll end up doing better and more interesting things. And somehow we need to get the word out to the politicians that this is possible.

Sound:
Short mindfulness bell

Smart policy-making, beyond altruism
The thing that I’m really not talking about here is altruism or self-sacrifice. The idea that a country should sacrifice itself for other countries is a daft idea. No country could, would or should ever consider doing such a thing.

That’s going back to this ridiculous Victorian idea of charity, where it’s the it’s the obligation of the wealthy to help the poorer. Well, there’s some truth in that. But it’s not really the main point.

The main point is that we all occupy a space on this earth and therefore we all have an equal responsibility, whatever’s happened in the past to try and fix it as equals moving forward.

And so, when I say to a country, you need to be good, what I don’t mean is that you need to give away all your spare money to poor countries. What I mean is simply that it is in your interest to do this. And I suppose the core component, the surprising component of the Good Country Equation is this remarkable discovery that I made back in 2012, that it is actually directly economically in your interest as a country to assist and support the international community.

And the reason for that is because it’s a two-stage argument, first of all. The overall image, the good name of a country is the thing which more than anything else, drives its success economically. So the countries that have got good, powerful, positive reputations like Sweden, or Switzerland or Canada or whatever, they find it much easier to make money out of trade, tourism, foreign investment and everything else.

They have a much better relationship with the rest of the world and with consumers all around the world. They make more money because they’ve got a better image. The countries that have weak or negative images that nobody’s ever heard of or that associated with war or conflict or trouble of one kind or another, they find it much, much harder to grow economically. It’s harder for them to get trade. It’s harder for them to export their products. It’s harder for them to attract talent and investment and so on and so forth.

So, discovery number one, countries need good images in order to progress and prosper. Discovery, number two; the factor which more than any other determines whether a country has a good image or not is how much it helps the international community. It’s not how successful it is.

The reason why people admire Sweden or Norway, for example, is not because Sweden and Norway have successful social models. It’s because they believe that Norway and Sweden contribute to the world in which they themselves live.

If I live in in Paraguay, I don’t care whether people in Norway are happy because it doesn’t affect me. I don’t live there. I don’t care whether they have good welfare or good health care provisions because it doesn’t benefit me.

What I care about is are these countries making the world a better place for me and my children to live in? So, when I go to bed at night, I think positive thoughts about Norway and Sweden, because I think to myself, they at least I’m glad they’re there. They’re not disturbing the international order. There are other countries, on the other hand, that I worry about as I go to bed at night because they are disturbing the international order.

Well, that’s what I believe.

So discovery number two, if a country wants a good reputation, it has to be a good citizen. It has to contribute to the grand challenges in some way. It has to tackle visibly and effectively migration, poverty, inequality, pandemics, climate change and so on and so forth.

So this is a big discovery. This is a little bit like corporate social responsibility all over again. But at the level of the nation state, if you want to make more money as a country, you have to have a better image. And if you want a better image, you have to goddamn well behave yourself. And that is quite a surprising discovery.

Simon Anholt speaking at TEDx Amsterdam.

Why I wrote this book
I think this is probably the main reason why I only felt ready to write this book when I had some mechanisms for encouraging countries and governments and people to behave differently that weren’t an appeal to their values.

I hope people won’t think that I’m a cynic. But I think that expecting governments and corporations to change their behaviour on the basis that something is right or wrong is never going to be as successful as when you appeal to them on the basis of what they really care about.

If it’s a government, it’s on the principle of staying in power and pleasing your people. And so, in a completely non-cynical way, I don’t waste my time telling people not to do things because they’re morally wrong. Nor do I waste my time criticizing people for doing the right things for the wrong reasons.

I don’t care about their motivations. I’m too old for that. I just care about whether they’re doing the right thing. And so that’s why the good country equation seems to be ready for exposure, because it’s based on simple, enlightened self-interest.

I’m not lecturing anybody. I’m not saying you must do this because it’s the right thing to do, because racism is wrong, because colonialism is wrong and so on and so on and so on. Those conversations can and will and must continue, but they don’t generally cause people to change their position.

On the other hand, if you can give somebody a very clear explanation for why changing their position will produce a better result for them, that’s in line with what they’re trying to achieve, then you stand a much greater chance of producing change. I’m not a purist in that respect. And so the good country equation is an appeal, a simple, logical, clear appeal to the self-interest of governments and individuals.

Sound: Mindfulness bell

The ins and outs of evidence-based research
Since almost the very beginning of my career, I’ve liked all of the advice I give to countries to be evidence based.

That discovery that countries need good images and those images can only come from principled international behaviour mainly comes from analysis of a database of a survey called the Nation Brands Index, which are created back in 2005.

And this is just a big global annual poll which interviews 20,000 people around the world every year on their perceptions of 50 different countries. And by 2012, I discovered that it had accumulated over a billion data points. So, I took some time off to analyse that huge database because I wanted to ask one simple single question Why do people admire country more than country B?

I knew it wasn’t because country makes more noise about it. I knew it wasn’t because country does relentless propaganda campaigns telling everybody how wonderful it is, because it was obvious from the data that it was nothing to do with that. But by crunching this huge database, what I did discover was in fact that yes, the primary driver of a positive natural national reputation is good behaviour in the international community. And then I’ve used lots of other surveys of my own and other people’s surveys to corroborate that evidence over the years.

Simon in Helsinki.

That awful word: brand
There is always a risk that if a country has a very good image, then people are not interested in hearing about or learning about or recognizing some of the bad things it does. And in exactly the same way, there’s a risk that if a country has a very bad image or a very weak or negative one, people are not interested in learning about the good things that it does. And the reason for this is because we’re just short of time. Last time I checked, there were 205 countries on Earth. And if we if we worried about the reality of those countries and we spent our time looking into exactly why we think they’re good or why we think they’re bad and how much harm and how much good they’ve done, we’d have no time left to do anything else.

We wouldn’t be able to eat or sleep. And so, what we do is we make do with the kind of prejudice stereotype.

This is why I use the awful term brand. 20 years ago, when I first coined this awful term brand, I was actually being ironic. I was saying that countries in the age of globalization have turned into brands on a supermarket shelf and it’s as if we can only hold in our mind at any one time one simple single fact about a country and one simple single set of prejudices, either positive or negative.

And this is hugely problematic because countries, of course, are not simple. Countries are really complicated. And anything you can say about one country, the opposite is probably equally true in a different domain. So that was the reason, incidentally, why I was very keen to create the Good Country Index, which I launched in 2014. This is an attempt to make it a little bit easier for people to actually answer that question: Is this country generally doing more good or more harm to the planet and to humanity in general? To do a kind of balance sheet for every country that answers that question for you in so far as it’s possible to answer it?

Why a Good Country Index?
I remember the week I started work on the Good Country Index; David Cameron, who is the prime minister of the United Kingdom at the time, told us all on Monday that we should despise China because it was a serial abuser of human rights. And then on Friday, he told us that we should all love and admire and respect China because it was going to rescue the British nuclear industry.

And I found myself quite puzzled and I thought, well, this is supposed to be my trade and I’m puzzled. What must everybody else be thinking? And I realized actually I would like to know whether ‘Net-Net’ China is a contributor to humanity or whether it’s a free rider on the international system and America and the United Kingdom and all these other countries as well. So that’s where The Good Country Index came from.

The way that it works is in principle, very simple. There are just 35 big data sets that mostly come from the United Nations and a few other international organizations that the organizations that are capable of collecting robust and reliable data about, you know, 100 plus countries every year.

And basically, I look at all the data that gives you some measurement about positive or negative impact of that country outside its own borders. So, for example, I’m not interested in Sweden’s health care provision because that only affects its own citizens.

And if you want to find out how Sweden treats its own citizens, there are a dozen indexes out there that will tell you that. But I want to know whether I as a Brit, should feel glad that Sweden exists. Is it making the world a better place for me, not for not just for Swedes?

And so you can look through The Good Country Index and you can see the positive and you can see the negative. So you can see that, for example, yes, Sweden, like most rich countries, gives away quite a lot of spare cash to poor countries every year. And that’s generally a good thing. I don’t think it’s possibly the best thing it could do, but it’s a good thing. And there is it’s high mark on overseas development assistance. On the other hand, I can also see that it’s very near the bottom of the list when it comes to weapons exports.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I happen to think that selling guns is wrong because it results in people being killed. And by the way, you can also see how many people Sweden was responsible for killing outside its own borders; not very many.

And so across these 35 data sets, you can see all the measured and measurable contributions, positive or negative, that one hundred and sixty odd countries make to the world outside their borders. And it adds them up for you and it gives you a total. Whether you agree with that total or not is entirely a matter of personal opinion. But at least it’s trying to break down some of this enormous complexity and give you an answer to that question. Am I right to admire Sweden? And if so, in which areas and in which areas is Sweden not admirable? And is there something that I should do about it?

The framework of The Good Country Equation

There are 35 individual indicators that make up the overall ranking of the Good Country Index, and this sorted into seven categories. So, each country is evaluated according to its global contribution to science and technology, its global contribution to culture, its global contribution to international peace and security, its contribution to world order, its contribution to planet and climate, its contribution to prosperity and equality, and finally to health and well-being. And then within each of those seven categories, there are five data sets making a total of 35. Now, the interesting thing is that I didn’t actually start with the framework. I ended with the framework.

Where I started with was a search for data sets. So my colleague Robert Gervaise and I spent a long time just basically trying to find any good, reliable, annual robust data sets that measured the external impacts of the behaviours of at least 160 or 150 countries. And we managed to find 35. That’s all there are.

So we’ve basically ended up with these 35 data sets, some of them are negative, like how many people have you killed outside your own borders? Some of the positive, like how many scientific journals have you exported contributing to global science and technology and so on and so forth. And and then they make an overall ranking. Well, they make seven rankings, one for each category and an overall ranking for the for the good country index. And that’s basically the way that it works.

The good country index is updated every year. The I’m currently working on the latest edition and hope it’s going to be out in the next week or two.

The thing that people need to understand about the Good Country Index is that these data sets produced by the UN and other big international bodies, they tend to be about three or four years behind the times because they’re only published once they’ve been checked.

And if you’re talking about millions and millions and millions of data points, that takes a long time.

United States of change
So, for example, the picture in the latest edition of the Good Country Index, one point three, we call it, shows that the United States of America is at overall ranking 40.

So relative to the size of its economy, it’s the fortieth country in the world in terms of the good that it does to humanity on the planet outside its own borders.

Incidentally, it’s a very, very close ties with Russia, which comes 41st.

The interesting thing is that not only The Good Country Index, but also the Nation Brands Index, which measures international perceptions of the country, have both been plummeting ever since Trump took office.
The United States is now the seventh most admired country on the planet, according to the Nation Brands Index, which is the same place it was in the second term of George W. Bush.

America is normally the most admired country on the planet. That’s its natural position still. But every time they have an internationally unpopular president, which happens from time to time, it tends to drop down to sixth or seventh.

051207 Dalarna hörsalen Teknikdalen, Foto Henrik Hansson.

Inserted: A tool for reflection and a work in progress
Well, the good country index is very much a work in progress, it cannot and does not claim to present a full account of what countries contribute to the rest of the world. It just needed to be done.

So unless you’ve got data, you can’t really include it. You know, they’re hard to measure, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s shining a small torch in the corner of a very, very large, very dark field. And what I’ve always hoped when I release indicators like this is that people will take that as a cue to contribute, to make it better collectively rather than a cue to just say this isn’t complete. I know it’s not complete.

On environmental data
In terms of the environmental data here, we’re still in the Middle Ages, frankly, when it comes to measuring ecological performance, if that’s the right word for it.

First of all, I use the ecological footprint created by the Global Footprint Network. And that’s quite a sophisticated piece of work and is good because it gives a kind of overall element into the countries score because we’re very interested in the policy side.

This is governments as much as countries that we’re talking about. We also include as a factor the degree of compliance that each government has with the major environmental agreements. And then we include hazardous pesticides exports, not necessarily because that in itself is the most significant thing, but because it tends to correlate quite strongly with a lot of other environmental or non-environmental behaviours.

We look at the countries renewable energy share because that gives us a hint as to the level of investment that they’re putting in to being more planet friendly. And we look at emissions of ozone depleting substances, which is still an issue. And again, it’s an important indicator.

Other uses of The Good Country Index
There are a few countries now where they’re actually using The Good Country Index as a framework for questioning candidates in elections, which is a really, really interesting way of using it. That basically there’s a group in Australia, for example, who use the Good Country Index to quiz candidates who are standing for the next election.

And they say this is Australia’s profile at the moment. This is the good we do. This is the harm we do. What are you proposing to do about all of those? And the politicians are absolutely dumbfounded by this, mainly because elections are, generally speaking, a 100 percent domestic affair. Nobody ever talks about international relations during national elections, but that’s a whole other story.

From competition to collaboration
I said before, why it’s economically in the interest of countries to collaborate more with other countries. But it’s also valuable for them to do that for another reason. And that is because it creates better policy. And if you look at the amount of collaboration that governments typically engage in in their daily existence, it’s pathetically small. I mean, the Nordics are better than many. The Nordics are better than many in many respects because they have a long history of cooperation and collaboration, both within their subregion and within the European Union. So they know that it works.

Sound: Mindfulness bell

Entrepreneurial multilateralism
Yes, sure, sure, but I mean, there’s this this idea which I mentioned in the book, which I call ‘entrepreneurial multilateralism’, which is extremely difficult to say; it’s a terrible a terrible name, but the idea is basically that countries shouldn’t wait for the UN to tell them to work on things. They should get together in random, weird, collective, collaborative units and solve their own problems collectively.

So when I was advising President Koroma in Sierra Leone a few years ago, I said to him, you know, we’ve got this this huge challenge of poverty in Sierra Leone. And of course, it would be great to talk to some other countries and see if we can observe some best practice and see if we can do some multicultural brainstorming. But let’s not go to the traditional countries, you know, the donors that always help Sierra Leone or your regional neighbours or whatever it is, let’s do something a bit more random and see if we can generate some much more unpredictable and much more exciting and inspiring interactions. So let’s go as random as we possibly can. So Sierra Leone begins with the letters S.L. Why don’t we just team up with every other place we can think of? That also begins with S.L.

So obviously Sri Lanka, St. Louis, Missouri, South London and so on and so forth. And you end up with the most random group of places you can possibly imagine that have nothing in common.

This is what the great Edward de Bono called lateral thinking. The more you mess up the frameworks of your thinking, the better the solutions become. If you’ve got Sierra Leone having a conversation with Saint Lewis and how do they say that in America, St. Louis with St. Louis and South London, then you’ve never had that conversation before? Guaranteed.

And the mutualisation of experiences and the mingling of the gene pool and the stirring up of those races and religions and histories and experiences and mindsets and approaches is just going to make a much, much richer soup and better ideas.

And then the great thing is that if you come up with an idea for reducing poverty in Sierra Leone, it works for all of those places, then it can be implemented in all of those places. And you fixed five countries for the price of one.

I think that the foreign minister should be renamed global minister and her or his job shouldn’t be to keep foreigners out of the country.

It should be to throw open the windows on every single policy debate in the country, even if it’s absolutely domestic things. If I was a Swedish politician and I had to sort out nurses pay in in your body, then the way that I would try and do that would be I would get a couple of public health specialists from Guatemala City and a couple from South Korea and a couple from South Africa. And we’d all sit down and brainstorm.

I absolutely guarantee that we will come up with more better interesting ideas than if we just had a bunch of Swedes in the same room together. And the same is true for any nation.

Your culture determines the extent to which you are capable of creative thinking, and the more you stir it up, the better the results.

This is not political correctness. But he whole point about difference is that it’s the most productive thing in the human experience; this extraordinary resource for creative and imaginative thinking. If only we stir things up. I think the world’s national anthems should be Stir It Up by Bob Marley.

Tanya Outro

Sound: Tanya’s garden, summer sounds

Tanya outro: Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON GOOD COUNTRIES. You can find more information about Simon Anholt on his website, Simon Anholt dot com, and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast.

Simon’s book, The Good Country Equation: How We Can Repair the World in One Generation is published in San Francisco by Barrett Curler and distributed internationally by Penguin Random House.

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

The music was created by Diego Losa. You can find Diego on diegolosa.blogspot.com

If you would like to find out more about nature-centred mindfulness, please see the work of Ajay (ah-jay) Rastogi on foundnature.org. You can also follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

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

END

Epiosde 11: ON NARRATIVES.

The very last podcast in this series.

Transcript to the Nordic By Nature Podcast, ON NARRATIVES

Tanya Intro:

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUND BRIDGE

TOM CROMPTON

Tom Crompton Intro

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

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

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

Tom Crompton from the Common Cause Foundation.

Researching the Impact of Values

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

A Fundamental Misunderstanding

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

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

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

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

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

Why Do We Think Others Are Materialistic?

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

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

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

Social Purpose driven Organisations

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

On Greater Manchester

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

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

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

Misperceptions from media and advertising

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

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

SOUND BRIDGE

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PAUL ALLEN

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

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

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

Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

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

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

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

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

Centre for Alternative Technology
Machynlleth, Wales, U.K

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

So we need to challenge those norms.

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

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

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

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

Good practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A shift in mindset

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

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

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

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YUAN PAN

Yuan Pan Intro

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

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

What is Natural Capital?

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

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

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

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

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

Why take an anthropocentric view?

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

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

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

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

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

Biodiversity objectives?

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

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

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

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

Functional Traits

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

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

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

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

Nature Capitals, Intrinsic Value and Relational Value.

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

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

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

Expanding the definition of sustainable business.

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

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

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

Connectivity to and in Nature

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

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

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

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

END

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SOUND BRIDGE 

PAUL JEPSON

Paul Intro.

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

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

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

Paul Jepson.

 

Enterprise and conservation.

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

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

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

On Rewilding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Us v European versions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A narrative of recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Capital or Assets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A strong sense of place

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

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

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

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

Nature does have a force.

From anxiety to solutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

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SOUND BRIDGE

CREDITS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

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Episode 9: ON ART

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

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

Introduction:

TANYA’S VOICE:

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

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

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

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

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

Peace paintings from Norway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CATRINE INTRO

SOUND: Skype ringing.

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

Catrine on holiday in Bindalen, Norway

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

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

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

it became a big success locally.

CATRINE ON SEVEN NEEDS

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

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

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

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

CATRINE ON STARTING PAINTING IN WORKSHOPS

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

CATRINE ON POSITIVE FEELINGS WORKSHOPS

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

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

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

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

Peacepainting in Iran.

CATRINE ON COLOURS AND MEMORY

We connect the colours to the body in a way.

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

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

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

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

It’s a kind of de- focused communication.

Yeah it becomes a very good atmosphere.

CATRINE ON HOW MANY PEOPLE?

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

CATRINE ON CHILDREN’S  MESSAGES

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

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

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

Peace Painting workshop in Iran, 2019

CATRINE ON DE-FOCUSSED THERAPY

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

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

So that is the environment we are making the workshop.

AMBIENT SOUND: 3. Kids-playing outside.wav

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

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

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

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

It’s very alike, all over the world.

9.07.

SOUND BRIDGE TO LAILA

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LAILA INTRO

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

ON ALTA CITY PARK

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIEGO ICE SOUNDS
ON ALTA END OF EUROPE

 

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

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

DIEGO ICE SOUNDS

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

Laila On Play

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

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

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

On not liking the cold.

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

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

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

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

And they gave me this tool, really sharp tool.

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

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

ON THE MATERIAL OF ICE

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

Sculpting snow

 

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

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

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

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

Ice from Nature

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

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

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

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

The North

1000 YEARS BACK

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

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

Temperature

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

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

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

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

DIEGO SOUNDS WARMING

In Kirovsk, Orenburgskaya Oblast’, Russia.

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

ON PREVIOUS PROJECTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laila on how she started.

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

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

DON’T LIKE THE COLD continued

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

There is always light!

THERE IS LIGHT continued

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

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

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

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

THIS YEAR- THE RIVER & ALTA AKTION

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

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

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

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

2019-2020 The river project and copper mining

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

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

DIEGO SOUND

Life is diversity! 

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

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

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

The identity of a place

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

——————————————

Neighbours.

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

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

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

We need to take care of the cold.

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

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

Because people staying indoors

20.54

On teaching kids

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

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

Outside with kids exploring nature

DIEGO SOUND

PLACE IDENTITY – ALTA AND STRANGERS

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

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

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

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

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

Land Art with children

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

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

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

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

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

——————————

DIEGO SOUND KIDS PLAYING OUTSIDE

STORY OF THE BIRD.

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

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

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

And she also has several partners.

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

22.42
—————————————————————

CREDITS

DIEGO SOUND: TANYA SUMMER GARDEN

TANYA’S VOICE:

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

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

Catrine Gangsto’s website is peacepainting.org.

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

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

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

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

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

END

 

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Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower: ON BELONGING

 Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower are the co-founders of Rogue Dwellings, and Andrew is also a contributer to Dark Mountain magazine. As a family they manifest their environmental activism in their way of life, free from land ownership, and through their presence at Standing Rock.

Andrew and Kayla Blacnflower, and their 5 beautiful kids born to tipi living; Rowan, Ayla, Sequoia, Tamarac and Raven inspire others to see how another type of parallel low-impact life is possible where we consume less and live more.

Living in handmade tipis that they teach others to make and travelling in an old school bus, the family invite strangers in for chai and a chat about life with respect for mother nature. Through their voices and sound recordings, listeners can feel a glimpse of how their everyday life also shapes a closeness to each other and how external resilience can in turn create an inner resilience, that also results in a softer impact on mother earth.

Podcast episode 6: ON BELONGING
Introduction:

TANYA’S VOICE:
SOUND: DIEGO INTRO

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

As Naess once wrote, there seems to be no place for PLACE anymore. The things, we need appear like magic into our lives. For that convenience we often have to sacrifice connection and community. We become isolated from each other as we become more dependent on faceless corporations to provide the things we need, rather than people who produce them. Our ecological selves are being separated from the very idea of home. But somehow, the loss of place is felt, on a deeper level, and the longing for home persists.

According to Naess and deep ecology, we need to articulate what it means to belong to a place.

For example,

Number 1. As humans, we are locally and globally connected at all times. Our everyday life patterns and culture interweave with every other living thing. We need to understand this experience if we are to create profound relationships of stewardship for our own lives and the lives of future generations.

Number 2. We must not confuse a place with our own house. We do not own a place. Other humans and non-humans have the right to be part of the ecology of a place.  It is important for us to share our sense of place with others, for that a place to thrive. It does not threaten our own identity or way of life to invite others to share the spaces where we feel we belong.

Number 3. Natural experiences are not commodities to be consumed. A place is a living entity, a collection of interconnected ecosystems. A place has a value independent of the services it provides humans. But humans can be an integral and natural part of an ecosystem.

Number 4. There is Wilderness and there is Countryside. One sees Nature as separate to humankind and the other sees humankind as a Keeper of Nature. Both concepts are human constructs.

Number 5. We need to regain a sense of scale. Places and their ecosystems are being degraded by massive amounts of waste. Microscopic damage is also occurring depleting the soil and our nutrition. We must also conserve the invisible equilibrium on which all life relies.

In this episode ON BELONGING, you will hear from three people who have thought a lot about what ‘home’ means to them and what defines our relationship to a place.

First you will hear the words of Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower, tipi dwellers and makers whose way of the life can be an inspiration to all of us to live lighter. Andrew and Kayla met and fell in love in Oregon in the States, and decided to raise their family with a closer contact to the earth and Mother Nature.

You will then hear the voice of Yvette Neshi Lokotz teacher of hand drumming and making, practitioner of the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop healing, and tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation.

Please listen to this podcast with your headphones.

Andrew Blanchflower, founder of Rogue Dwellings.

Andrew’s Story

My name’s Andrew. I’ve lived in tipis since the early ‘90s. The story goes back to those days in Hulme. We would go up to Saddleworth Moors and graze on mushrooms in the autumn. I think that was my first taste of the system that was bigger than any political system that there is the system that is…I could just call it Mother Earth or Gaia right now….

SOUND: Walking through woodland

We’d come back to Hulme like this low rise six story social housing disaster, which was actually great for squats and young, single people and ….I think I’ve forgotten that time of my life my early growing up until my late teens that there was such a longing and such a missing, like, I remember that when I see people in town these days just with that confusion or that… that kind of “there’s something bigger than this, I know that there’s something bigger than this or just something… that has to be more.”

I remember having these conversations the Shenyen who was then named Martin and it would be like: “What was the most amazing life that you could dream of, that you could imagine+” For Shenyen, it was being an ordained monk in India or Tibet. For me it was living in a tipi.

SOUND: Yorkshire-moors.wav

And then it was like “Okay well can we just, do you want to just try moving towards that and see what happens?” And so that’s what happened, and then I met people that live in a tipi community in Wales of all places and my people that live in tipi he’s in Wales all year round to me was a revelation that people could still actually do that.

And I met some of those people at various festivals, at Glastonbury Festival and various healing gatherings, and they were just making a cup of tea around the fire, and I was just perceiving these people like these amazing epic characters that knew how to just boil kettle in a few minutes.

SOUND: BLESSED BE SONG.m4a
SOUND: 2. ANDREW PENNYWHISTLE.wav

INTRO: KAYLA’S STORY

SOUND: 3. BACKGROUND BIRDS KAYLA.wav

I love the way we met. I think it’s, it’s so romantic. He was playing the penny whistle. There was one evening he was playing in this little town called Ashland in Oregon and at night he was playing his whistle on the street. And I was out for a walk. I was actually quite heartbroken that night. And I was going on a walk with a friend, sort of crying and sharing my, my broken heart. And then we parted ways this friend and I, and I heard this whistle in the distance. It just felt so healing and soothing to me and so I decided I would close my eyes and walk to where that whistle was coming from.

And now here we are. However, many years this is later. This is like almost 20 years later and we have five children. 

On Tipi Life

ANDREW Basically we live in tipis because we can be on the ground around the fire. Like it’s a way of manifest in our elements directly. I can get wood and water, find the spring or a creek or something. There’s like two basics taken care of as far as elements.

KAYLA At the moment everyone’s busy in the shop. All the kids are in there making things; we’re making shoes for the trip, and making backpacks, a travelling lodge and a bag for the travelling lodge, and Ayla is making some gifts. She wants to bring these baby carriers to give to some kids that she knows over there. Yeah. everyone’s really busy using the sewing machines right now and making things for the journey and that’s a lot of fun.

SOUND: 4. WHITE THROATED SPARROW.m4a

KAYLA So we have five children. All of our children were born to living in the tipi.

That’s sort of one of the things that I kind of captivated me about Andy was that he, he lived in a tipi and he had come from a tipi community in Wales, and he knew how to make them, and how, how to live in them in a way that wasn’t like roughing it or camping but quite luxuriously.

The Blanchflower Family

And so all of our children were born to the tipi. Not all of them were born in it. Some were born outside of the tipi or in water, or our firstborn was born in a birth centre. It was a beautiful birth and it was that birth that then set up the rest for us to be pretty strong about just having him and I be there for the births.

So, we had a midwife for our first child and she was a wonderful woman. She’s dear in my heart. I have sought counsel with her throughout all the rest of our children, but not as a regular midwife and she did not attend any more births.

I’m grateful for her and it really helped me get in touch with the wisdom in my bones of just how to how to birth with a lot of love with whatever family was around.

SOUND: 6. AMBIENT LODGE 1.wav &  7. AMBIENT LODGE WATER.wav

On  Tipi Village, from Wales to Oregon

KAYLA It was when we were pregnant with our second child that we wanted to just be somewhere wild where we could feel really comfortable and at home and so we decided to just go to those mountains in the distance, and we set up our lodge, and I don’t know a little while after we set it up maybe some days or so. someone came down and it turned out they were the title holders.

But they loved the Tipi. We made them tea which is what we’ll often do when surprise visitors come. And you know let the fire do its magic on them like it does. They came down and they had tea and they welcomed us and said that they you know they had access to thousands of acres. They opened it up to us. I mean that the short version.

And that’s where the valley the tipi Valley model where Andy came from in Wales had such a strong influence in this little place in Oregon which we ended up calling tipi village.

It’s amazing that those stories, those people, those events, in Wales they’re all of those how far they travelled and how they’re like seeds that floated over and just grew in this other place, and I guess stories do that. They kind of travel like that.

People would come and visit and find out if they wanted to stay for a while or not. It was a pretty organic process because you know, if if people were up for it, fetching wood and water and cooking on a fire, and living with the elements, and dealing with mould and rodents, and you know, rain dripping in and all of these things that have to be dealt with– then they would, you know, they’d make themselves a tipi and rise to it and love it —and

other people would find you know quickly or not so quickly that it wasn’t for them, and so there was no need for any, you know, egos to get involved to say you can be here. You can’t be here. The earth did the sorting out. I guess, maybe.

SOUND: 2b Rattle.wav

ANDREW Tipi Valley in Wales they always had that big lodge that was always open, and it brings so much perspective. If we want new stories new narratives, we can look back to stories that 5000 years old what’s so common in a lot of those folk tales, is the answer to the problem comes from the periphery. It doesn’t come from where we’re looking at the problem. Like it comes a spirit of the lake or an old woman in the roots of the tree or…. But we have to be open to that we have to be at that point. Maybe it’s not going to be until we’re at that point of desperation that we will be open to that and hear it.

SOUND: 8. DINNER BLESSING.wav

On what is home?

Fireplace and FIRE CRACKLING.m4a

Sewing in the workshop tent

KAYLA [00:10:58] What does home mean? These are thinking about these things are really they’re meaningful to me, and we talk about them often in our home. It’s been quite a thread for us because of I guess we kind of considered ourselves as ‘displaced’ which is interesting to say because Andy isn’t from the west of Turtle Island but we made our family there, all the kids were born there this whole village from out of the ground and blossomed there, other children in the community were born there.

For many years we all moved together seasonally. There was a summer grounds and winter grounds and so we’re very connected with a place there.

We moved within a range, a valley, and a mountain range and so we had high elevation camp and we had a low elevation camp.

We often hear that the only place where that’s normal is where you’re at like the Nordic regions is like that that kind of stuff is more widely accepted and known in here. It is a little bit. I mean sometimes we’re in places where we might be a bit more of the freak show. We don’t find so many but enough that we aren’t alone really. Right now, all winter we’ve been living on this beautiful ridge and with three other families.

I mean a community doesn’t need to be a huge amount of people, there’s enough people here where we can bounce off each other and there’s enough, you know, diversity be amongst the different skills between the grown-ups that the kids can like, you know, they go to what’s inspiring for them for input and there’s other children here and they have this wide open wild space to just be in and learn about together.

SOUND: 11. CRACKING FIRE & ROWAN.m4a

On Stories

KAYLA Because I think there is some great power to us knowing the stories of a landscape and feeling how our stories are woven into those stories and then we know our place because we know the land so I feel like home. Place is relevant in talking about home, but I don’t think it’s exclusive to place and I think it could be at least here in the United States, there’s that consciousness of its like its ‘settler colonialism’ that really claims a place and says this is mine.

ANDREW Stories really intimate and woven in with place, like they come from a place and they emerge out of the ground. As far as a new narrative is becoming apparent that a monolithic… a single narrative isn’t really the way forward. It seems like in order to find unity we’re having to kind of decentralise. Someone a few years ago on a radio show was talking about that the only thing that unites us is our uniqueness. Like the thing that unites us does our uniqueness. We’re all different. So the ability to adapt. We’re forgetting how to adapt.

People are forgetting how to write down on paper, through the seduction of convenience, people forget how to feel a bit uncomfortable, and just rise to the occasion. I don’t know what there is to do other than just try and be resilient and adapt.

ANDREW That brings it back to that relationship with place being something more dimensional than mere economics. It is just one single level or dimension of how a holistic relationship to ‘place’ can be.

Rogue Dwelling Tipi in snow

KAYLA I think at that time I might have been very much one to say that home in place were more closely related but then as Tipi village, I mean the story as tragic, and it’s beautiful and it was you know, the land titles shifted hands and that’s a long story.

It was enough for us that push was enough, and we got a school bus real quick and made a quick conversion and got on the road and for the first year I would say we travelled around just traumatized and gutted like we had lost everything that, that meant something to us like the birthplace of our children, and we had such a vision woven in with that place, of a future of a way forward that we were so dedicated to and believed so firmly in.

Tending the land, tending wild plants, returning seasonally, watching it grow, living lightly with a place, as a people, as a community. So then that’s when I think the journey of being separated from place but still maintaining home, began for me personally.

SOUND: NeshiDrumming_6/4/19_2.mp3 (DIEGO Arrangement)

On Standing Rock

KAYLA: And then we kind of heard that call to go to Standing Rock. Well not kind of. It came through really strong. That’s another story. I mean it was quite an incredible direction for us to head in, after having gone through the seven years of tipi village, and being able to be in a bus, with a workshop that made tipis, and we can just pull up to Standing Rock and make shelter and have our home with us. And I think that’s where maybe the journey began to shift for me in realising that home is much bigger than a place because we got there, and it felt like we met our people. I met our people.

And that our people live all around the world, like people were there from so many places, but there was such this common thread that united us. And we kept saying in so many ways it was like we had gone home.

It had such a profound impact on our lives. We were there for a year. It was the land of the paradox for me just the richest place I’ve been.

The spiritual richness was so potent that fire was burning so strong and that’s what kept us there for that long and the poverty and pain that’s there is equally as strong. It’s just the poorest and richest place. And I guess I am speaking beyond our time in camp at Standing Rock because we stayed on further with relatives that we met who live on the various reservations in the Dakotas and lived with them after the camps were closed down in February. We continued on, pitched our lodge with some other people who live between the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Rosebud reservation

On Nature and healing

ANDREW This thing that they pejoratively called the environment as if it’s an issue as if it’s something that needs to be taken care of as if it isn’t the whole of everything. All of life runs through this about out of proportion, I think.

KAYLA We’re all very present. We don’t have anywhere else to be except right at home and with each other. We’d like to say that sometimes it’s kind of like we have seven pairs of eyes were like this one body with all these eyes and all these noses and all these ears just kind of moving through space and time together and and so it feels like we’re that much more aware if we’re in it together taking care of each other paying attention to each other’s bodies. But we heat water on the fire. We have a washtub. That’s how we have baths. The healing journey requires getting sick together.

We’re blessed to have each other to have the family. I send a bit of that good feeling out to those who aren’t as fortunate to have a family container to hold them through their challenging times.

I feel humbled and blessed that we do have that with each other and we have all the time we’re so rich with time so there’s just no hurry or there’s no loss of job money. Getting ill, it has information in there of how to be live even better, how to be more activated in ourselves, maybe.

Our bodies are maps.

On being open

KAYLA With the way we move with in the bus and where we’ve been travelling across the country. It’s sort of been a requirement that we be very open. I mean I guess we could do it in a closed way but I just that’s just not the way we do it. We move really slowly and in a very open way always receiving whatever guests we meet. It’s it’s so curious to me the way a journey can unfold when we go with such open minds and heart.

Especially with technology these days we could really plan our route and plan where we stay and close our reality down so much with all this planning and being so destination bound, and then I think we miss out so much, and so, by being so open, we’re always in contact with so many different kinds of people, which I think grows in our kids a kind of adaptability and some resiliency. and a way to navigate different cultural contexts.

Cosy at home

ANDREW Well the way we’ve done Chai is to serve it straight out of the bus because we have a 1988 Chevy Bluebird school bus like classic American school bus, and that’s what we travel, we carry our whole trip in that which is a tipi and a 28 foot seven-sided tensile tent shop.

So we might just be pulled over in a rest area or in a town and we’ll put a sign up saying “Now serving organic Chai” on the sign is to say. Donations welcome and then we thought it has a poor aesthetic, so we just even scrubbed that off, and people still managed to make donations, and sometimes… sometimes someone wouldn’t leave anything, sometimes… most people leave a couple three dollars to occasionally someone’s left one hundred dollars or bunches of kale or someone’s brought us some venison or Buffalo or whatever.

Hearth living

We pull up in the town and the person who’s got TB poles on the roof is painted brown and it’s got water protective signs on the side and people are curious and often there’s a person in a uniform who’s bold enough to come and talk to us and you know we’ll charm them but. we have to invite everyone in for a cup of tea because if we don’t, if we’re not open, then we’re dangerous and we’re suspicious because we are so different.

And it is curious that there is a longing. People come in and they just smell it. And I don’t know what we smell like anymore, like mostly we just smell like wood smoke, I think, you know we’ll be cooking in there and there was a smell of chai and, time and time again, there’s just that longing for trust.

I think it’s it’s not like there’s no fear there anymore it’s more like a willingness to engage with that fear and maybe that’s what we have to do in order to stop plundering our ecology our environment is just give over and relax and know that there is enough abundance in the world.

Playing and learning skills

SOUND: 10. FIRE COOKING.m4a

Everyday life is our home

KAYLA There’s these threads we have that we bring through wherever we go; the tipi and the fire and all the dailies that are required to keep that functioning and I think those are like it’s kind of the main spokes of the basket. That kind of give it some structure, and some kind of that’s their identity maybe? Maybe it’s maybe it’s like this is what we we are as a family is is what we do. We have our bus and our lodge, and we move seasonally and we don’t claim any one spot but we like to meet lots of people, and love places as we go if it’s planting trees or building labyrinths or developing springs, at different places, or transplanting things, or gathering plant medicines or praying, building sweat lodges.

There’s so there’s so many ways that we engage with the places that we go and love them where we go and then and then we are moving on. But I have to say there is some heartache and sadness about…it’s almost like we have to keep moving because of the way the system is set up.

I’m not entirely like anti…staying in one spot and I don’t. I’m not against that. It’s just not viable unless we do it in this very entitled way. This land ownership thing but tending to a place and loving a place and getting to know the stories of a place and weaving into it, I think that’s profound.I think this is crucial really for a sense of well-being, and for our knowing our own individual place and all of creation.

Even when we look at hunter and gatherer cultures, I don’t think they that people have ever just wandered around that there’s been a purpose. If it’s going for. A certain food that is ready in a certain place with the certain time of year.

When the salmon run or when the maple syrup is flowing, the wild rice is ready.

ANDREW This time last year we were in New Hampshire and we were tapping maple trees where we made 15 gallons of maple syrup and we still have some leftover. It’s that way of just diversifying. From my experience of travelling with indigenous peoples, and indigenous cultures it’s like there’s a resilience woven into those kinds of cultures.

Looking back to the dictionary definition of what Indigenous means, basically emergent from place. If I can emerge from a place like the elements that make my body, that way is to be alive. If I can honour that as much as possible as part of a… like everything else in creation. I am a strand in a multi-dimensional shimmering tapestry of life that is all my relation, which means all my relationships.

Kayla

So, it’s like we have all these relationships not just the physical well I can see and hear and feel and touch around me. But things that make up what is me they the things within me and without me. How does that shimmer in the way that it’s supposed to in the way that all the rest of creation has the potential to do — if I can perceive it like that?

SOUND: REFRAIN OF  2. ANDREW PENNYWHISTLE.wav

KAYLA There’s intention and purpose. It’s not kind of a bumbling about so working with what we have, it’s been beautiful, there’s people here who take care of this place. They said come and be here for the winter. And so we have, we’ve arrived. We’ve been here as fully as we can. This is art we’ve loved this place. And it’s been amazing. Arriving in the fall when it was all going to sleep. And now being here in the spring in this completely new landscape that we don’t know a lot of these plants and trees and they’re all waking up and coming alive and surprising us at every turn. We had no idea. We were surrounded by trees that were going to give off so much colour in the spring. It’s been beautiful to get to know a new place.

It’s been quite an epic and beautiful journey. A lot of it just feeling like it’s a journey of coming more whole, and a lot of weaving.

I think we weave so beautifully together, Andy and I.

Living light means living in harmony with nature, with the least negative impact

END

 

Episode 5: ON HAPPINESS

Listen here: https://share.transistor.fm/s/a2b3ea54

Download episode here: https://media.transistor.fm/862d207c.mp3

Transcript to episode 5. On Happiness.

Introduction:

DIEGO INTRO SOUND: ICE SOUNDS

Tanya’s Voice:

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

According to Naess’s interpretation of Spinoza, Happiness is best realised through living life to the full out “in the world”. Other philosophies suggest a life of contemplation is the path to enlightenment, the ultimate happiness. In a way it is this struggle to balance our inner values and desires with our external actions and reactions that makes the search for Happiness, an experiential process rather than a destination.

You will now hear from two guests who have dedicated their careers to understanding the relationship of values to our behaviour, and how our sense of wellbeing has a direct impact the wider world around us.

First, you will hear from Tim Kasser, currently a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, USA. He has performed extensive research on materialism, values, well-being, and environmental sustainability, among other topics. In 2018, he collaborated with the cartoonist Larry Gonick to create a graphic book, HyperCapitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them.

Then you will hear Dr. Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan & Gross National Happiness Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies.

Gross National Happiness offers a framework of criteria for policymaking and all kinds of human activity, including that of companies and corporations.

 

DIEGO SOUND BRIDGE
2 GUESTS VOICES:

TIM KASSER: 22.49 mins total 

TIM INTRO

So, my name is Tim Kasser. I’m Professor of Psychology at Knox College which is in Galesburg Illinois in the United States. And I’ve been studying people’s values and goals and how they relate to well-being and ecological damage and other kinds of things for about 30 years now.

Professor Tim Kasser

At the time that I started to move into the ecological work, I had already been doing a lot of work on people’s values and goals and how they related to their own personal well-being, as well as to some social outcomes. And then a guy named Kirk Brown actually approached me and said “Well what about ecological stuff?”

And so we did a study together right around the year 2000 actually where we began to look at how people’s values and goals related to ecological outcomes, so people’s ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours. That really sparked my interest and so I started to do more work in that realm.

From a psychology’s perspective there’s all this focus on well-being but pretty much the focus is on how happy is this person, how not depressed is that person, how you know satisfied with life is this person.

But there’s relatively little comparatively about well-being involves living well in a way that doesn’t damage other people’s opportunity to live well and doesn’t damage other species opportunities to live well and doesn’t damage future generations opportunities to live well.

If we really want to understand well-being, we have to get beyond I guess what you would call the user there or what the psychologist would talk about with regard to personal well-being. And we really need to focus on social and psychological well-being as well. 1.51

Hypercapitalism: The Modern Economy, Its Values, and How to Change Them

One of the major things that you would hear from politicians and others was that we can’t focus too much on the environment because that will decrease people’s well-being because they’ll have to give up X and give up y and give up Z.

And so, what we really tried to do, and we were I think the first people to do was to set out to test that idea. So, is it the case that psychological well-being and ecological well-being are incompatible, or might they actually be compatible?

And so in two studies we measured people’s personal well-being so their life satisfaction their experience of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. And then we also measured their ecological footprints and their ecological attitudes and behaviours and what we found was that actually in both samples personal and ecological well-being were positively correlated. That is, happier people tended to also be living more ecologically sustainable lifestyles.

And I’d say a little bit more about that finding from the Brown Kasser study, but I want to note that two years ago I did a summary of the literature on that, and it turns out that that finding that personal well-being and ecological well-being are positively associated has now been replicated about 15 or 20 times in other samples, cross culturally, with lots of different kinds of measures of well-being, with lots of different ways of measuring environmental behaviour as well.

So, it does seem to be a rather robust relationship that Kirk and I discovered back in 2000.

The other thing that Kirk and I were interested in is what is it that allows personal and ecological well-being to be positively correlated.

What were the psychological mechanisms, if you will, which allow those two things to go in concert with each other.

We looked at three different possibilities all of which had some data to support them. So the first one which was the thing I’d been studying for quite a while was people’s values and what we found was that part of why people who are happy are also living more sustainably is that they focus on values for their own personal growth and their own connection to other people and helping the world.

And they focus less on values like making a lot of money having a lot of possessions having the right image being popular. All those values and encouraged by consumer capitalism. So, one of the reasons that people can be both happy and sustainable is if their values orient them in a certain way.

The natural outcome of a focus on those intrinsic value is we call them instead of the materialistic values is to be happy in the moment, is to live more sustainably.

On Mindfulness

A variable that Kirk had been studying for some time, which is called mindfulness. And so, Kirk was one of the early people in psychology to really look at mindfulness, which is the ability to be with one’s thoughts in the moment in a non-judgemental way.

And so again what we found was that people who were more mindful were also living more sustainably and happier at the same time. So, there’s something about mindfulness which conduces towards both of those kinds of wellbeing outcomes.

Hyper Captialism book illustration

On Lifestyle

And then the third thing we looked at was lifestyle, so probably heard of the idea of downshifting or voluntary simplicity where people decide that they’re going to no longer kind of buy into the normal work and spend lifestyle but instead live a simpler life. And so, in our study we had 400 people 200 of whom were simplify hours and 200 of whom were mainstream Americans. And again, what we found was that those who were voluntary simplify hours were more likely to be both happy and to be living more sustainably.

Now that was actually the weakest of the three factors compared to mindfulness and values but it certainly did seem to matter. So that was essentially what we found and for us that’s a pretty hopeful message because what it suggests is there are things people can do in their own lives their lifestyles with their values with their mental practices which can conducive towards both happiness and sustainability.

And it shows that all those messages telling us that you know we have to sacrifice and give stuff up and that’s going to in order to have a sustainable world that that’s actually doesn’t appear to be true. 6.22

And that’s one of the things we found actually was that all three of those variables we were just talking about were kind of related to each other so people who were more mindful tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic. And people who were voluntarily simplifying their lives also tended to have more intrinsic values and to be less materialistic.

There’s kind of a grouping of a way of life if you will that I think kind of stems from what people think is important or what people think is not so important that can then lead us to practice our lives in certain ways to make certain choices, which have these real important consequences for people’s own personal well-being, but also for how they treat other people and the planet.

On Intrinsic Values and Nature

The intrinsic values or values for things like your own personal growth for family and for helping the world be a better place. The extrinsic materialistic values are things for money, image, status. And one of the things that we’ve learned in the last 10 or 12 years about those values, is that they stand in a dynamic opposition with each other. They’re in a kind of a tension with each other.

I’ve used the metaphor for a lot of years of a seesaw. You know that children’s playground you know you sit on it one then goes up in the other and goes down. Well the same happens with these values. The more the people focus on those intrinsic values, the less they tend to care about the materialistic values, but the more they care about materialistic values the less they care about the intrinsic values.

So one of the things that we’ve done a lot over the last few years is to do studies where we activate momentarily in people’s minds one or another set of values, and then we see what happens to the other values. So, if we get you thinking about money for example what the research shows is that you’ll care more about money related things and image related things and you will care less about helping other people. But if we get to thinking about intrinsic values, momentarily, then you’ll care about more things like the environment and helping other people, and you’ll care less about things like money and status and power.

What research suggests is that an awareness of nature, probably be one way of activating those intrinsic values of building up that part of the human value system, and getting people more and more focussed on intrinsic values, which is good in and of itself, but it’s also good because what it will do will be to suppress those more materialistic values, because of the way that the human value system is organised.

As you get people thinking about nature and being more and more aware and caring about nature that’s going to build up the intrinsic values which will then suppress the more materialistic values.

And there’s research which actually supports this. There was a study by Neta Weinstein, she exposed people to pictures of nature or pictures of manmade things human made things.

And then she measured how immersed people became in those pictures and then she measured their values afterwards and what she found was that if you gave people pictures of nature and the people became immersed in those then what happened was their intrinsic values went up and they’re materialistic values went down compared to if you showed them pictures of nature and they didn’t get immersed or if you showed them pictures of human made objects.

That makes perfect sense from the value research that we’ve done because essentially she’s kind of activated those more intrinsic values which is going to suppress the more materialistic values.

On WWF Scotland research

WWF Scotland probably 10 or 12 years ago did something called I think was called the Natural Change Project.

There were a lot of different elements to that project but essentially what they did was they found a bunch of kind of leaders in the business political artistic world who didn’t seem actually to care very much about it’s not that they dissed nature or didn’t care about nature but like their lives weren’t organised around trying to improve the environment.

That’s not what they were up to. That wasn’t their main gig. And so for over the next six months or a year or so like that they took these individuals and they did a whole variety of deep eco psychology kinds of interventions which if memory serves culminated with a dawn to dusk so low sitting time in wild nature so people would go out and they would sit down in one spot and basically stay there until it got dark by themselves for you know 12 hours or whatever.

And you know if you read the reports that were coming out of that Natural Change Project and what you found was that as people were reflecting on what all of that experience meant to them they were starting to say it was exactly what we’ve just been talking about, which was that they saw that things like money and status and didn’t really matter to them so much more what they really were more focussed on was things like relationships and things like promoting the community, and things like sustainability.

And then we can expect that if we’ve really shifted people’s values that’s going to have impacts later on in terms of specific behaviours that they engage in for a long, long time.

On Business

We’ve got to intervene with businesses. You know I think there’s just no way around that. The issue of course is that if it’s a publicly traded for profit business, at least here in the United States, that means that it has to place shareholder value and profit as its primary concern.

And as we just talked about with regard to the value conflicts, the more that you’re focussed on profit, the less you’re going to care about the environment. And so when push comes to shove, if it’s about making a choice that helps the environment, or a choice that helps make profit, as long as you’re on this publicly traded for profit corporation model, you’re going to hit that barrier.

My recent book is called hyper capitalism the modern economy, its values and how to change them. It’s a cartoon book actually, and my co-author slash illustrator is a guy named Larry Gonic. Cartoon me is the narrator.

And you know at the beginning of that chapter on business it begins with me saying you know that I used to be very dubious about changes in business you know and I’d kind of given up on that. But I think at this point

I think there’s a lot of excitement in terms of what’s happening in the business arena. There’s a lot of interesting cool models out there about alternative ways to organise businesses so that you don’t hit that barrier around profit. You know so if you look at worker co-ops if you will look at benefit corporations if you look at all kinds of other models you can start to see ways in which big organisations and product can try to focus both on profit and on things like sustainability and social justice.

On Hypercapitalism

You know I think capitalism is a particular economic system and we could talk about what it entails. But I think what’s what happened after World War Two and then especially in the late 70s and early 80s in the in North America and in Europe was there was a real shift towards a more extreme form of capitalism than was in place before you know and I think that that’s when you have globalisation coming in that’s when you have much more pushes towards privatisation you see a huge rise in consumerism at that time because you’ve got kind of modern advertising coming out view all different sorts of media especially the television etc. and then you have a lot of deregulation which occurs in many of these countries as well where government steps back and says go at it business you know how to do whatever you can do to maximise economic growth. And so this fetishism of economic growth and of buying stuff and of moneymaking and profit and all the rest really began an era where I don’t think we were in capitalism anymore. I think we had moved on to a more extreme version of capitalism that by putting all of these materialistic values at the forefront began to suppress even more and more and more values like equality values like caring about the environment et cetera.

And indeed it’s around that time when you start to see work hours go back up you start to see indices of inequality go up you really start to see lack of movement on a lot of environmental issues etc. So. So that’s how we understand hyper capitalism to a term that’s been around invented by somebody else. But it definitely seems apt to start to talk about you know what is the political economic social system that we find ourselves under in much of the world at this point.

On Neoliberalism

If you take a look at neoliberalism its fundamental tenets are tenets of deregulation, privatisation, and globalisation. and that you need to have government back off you need to have things as globalised as possible in terms of production and sales, and you again need to get the government out of the law-making business as much as possible so not regulating businesses. And you need to turn over as many government functions as possible to the private sector supposedly because the private sectors motive for profit will make it more efficient and then give everybody better products and better services.

So I think, fundamentally that’s the idea of neoliberalism.

You know again a lot of that emerges out of the out of the post-World War Two destruction and the Cold War the rise of the Chicago school of thought with regard to economics in particular. I think when you really see it hit home is when Reagan and Thatcher are in charge, early 80s that’s when you start to see neoliberalism become dominant in lots and lots of ways. And that’s when you start to then see the expansion into a hyper capitalist society.

That’s the fundamental faith of neoliberalism, well you know that if you turn things over to the invisible hand of the free market and you get government out of the way then good things will happen to me that is the fundamental faith state of neoliberalism.

But I would argue it is a faith statement.

Don’t get me wrong. Capitalism has been remarkably successful in doing what it sets out to do which is to provide a whole lot of products at relatively cheap prices for a whole lot of people and to create a great deal of wealth by its own terms.

Capitalism has been remarkably successful but if you care about equality or if you care about sustainability or if you care about authenticity and well-being, which are things capitalism doesn’t claim to care about, by the way, then you have to really question capitalism.

And again, here’s where we’re back to that fundamental value dynamic. You know the more and more you focus your lives and organisations and society and political structures around maximising wealth and consumption you’ve activated and encouraged those extrinsic values.

And as a result, you care less and suppress those intrinsic values for things like equality and sustainability and all the rest.

If we can trust all of the data we’re getting we know that things are headed down the wrong road.

And so we can either throw up our hands or we can start to develop alternative models.

Well we have to do is to start developing those alternatives and really work on them and figure them out so that we can try to prevent the bad things from happening. If that’s still possible and if it’s not possible then when the bad things do happen, we can say ‘Hey try this, not that!’

Here is the place where I think that the Nordic nations and then the Northern European nations as well you know Denmark and the Netherlands and Germany have been real leaders, have really pushed to develop these alternative models, to develop alternative practices, to try to try to make some changes at a structural levels and in lifestyle levels, to show it’s possible. And again, I would go back to where we started our conversation a while back. What’s also fascinating is that those are some of the happiest nations in the world. You know so and you can argue about why that is, but that the fact remains that these nations that are moving in these more sustainable ways also in study after study, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and the Netherlands, are oftentimes the among the happiest nations in the world.

It’s actually pretty short period of time that we’ve been under globalisation in the scope of human history, right? it’s been 40 years that’s a blip in this course of history.

When people focus on intrinsic values they focus less on materialistic values they’re happier they act in more pro social ways and they live in more ecologically sustainable ways.

Fundamentally at base the solution is actually fairly simple: How do we orient our personal lives our businesses our communities and our governments around intrinsic values rather than extrinsic values?

Because what all the evidence suggests is that if we can do that materialism will become less important people will be happier people will treat each other more nicely and people will treat the planet more nicely.

Now how to get from here to there is a different issue, but at least like with the thing that makes me optimistic is that there is a ‘there’ I can see. There is a ‘there’ that I can see and that I can understand and that makes sense theoretically from what I know as a psychologist. It has empirical data behind it. It actually is very consistent with almost every spiritual and philosophical tradition which has been around in the history of humanity. And there are people doing it now right. There are people who are living these ways now.

If any listener is out there who thinks these ideas are valid. I would encourage you to work at your city level first to get engaged in the city and try to change your city because I think that cities are where people live and so they. They have their experiences there and what happens at cities. If you can make something work at a city, it provides a model that you can say to another city or to a province or to the federal government ‘hey but it worked here, it worked here. Let’s try it at another place and try it in another place.”

Working at that local level is fundamental and our best shot.

End

SOUND BRIDGE TO KARMA URA:

Karma Ura’s Upbeat music. His own composition.

I am Karma Ura, and I’m presently the president of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies. It is an autonomous government sponsored think tank, and it is located in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.

We have mandate to conduct research on Gross National Happiness, policy background studies and culture.

My background is in economics and philosophy at the master’s level, and PhD in International Development. So, all of my professional life, for some 30 years now, has been devoted to Alternative Development, its indicators and statistics on one side, and Buddhist Philosophy, Literature and Fine Arts, on the other.

Incidentally, I am also a painter and I design artefacts and performances. For example, I designed the 1000 denomination currency for Bhutan. I have painted the murals of a whole temple, and designed a national festival which is held on the 13th December every year.

An 18th century mural of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), considered to be the architect of Bhutan.

On Development

The idea of development is usually introduced from outside. It is a frequently based on idea of industrialisation and an expansion of the economy.

Alternative development involves indigenous ideas about how we should transform our societies. If you have certain different ideas about transformation of society, along with different destination goals, that would qualify as alternative development.

Goal, in the context of Bhutan would be happiness of the people.

The goals of development in the case of Bhutan involves nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

Living standard is only one of the nine goals of development. The others are, Health, Education and Living standards; these are fairly well-known ones and followed everywhere else. Slightly new ones are Good Governance, Environment or Ecological Resilience, and Cultural Diversity and Resilience. So that comes to six domains. But the last three domains are on the frontier of development, and these are Psychological Well-being, Community Vitality and Balanced Time Use over 24 hours. We in Bhutan consider these 9 domains of Gross National Happiness as cause and conditions of happiness.

SOUND: 2. SINGING KIDS BHUTAN.wav

On Gross National Happiness- the background

It was first explicitly coined in 1979 by the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

For some time, GNH was realised through legislation and policies of the government, led by him. But In 2008 Bhutan became a parliamentary democracy.

Since then governments have been elected through universal franchise, as you know. Constitution was also adopted, and the constitution obliges the government to pursue a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness, to guide politicians and bureaucrats to the long-term goals of Gross National Happiness.

In 2006, we adopted the concept of nine domains of Gross National Happiness, and along with it, we were directed by the fifth King of Bhutan to create Gross National Happiness Index. Since then we have had a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness.

Measuring Happiness?

I think we have to be clear, when we talk about happiness, about how its measurement is laid out, what it measures, and on what the comparative ranking of the nations are based. As you know very well, the Nordic countries come on top in the ranking based on subjective well-being. We need to clarify a lot about international comparison and ranking of nations with regard to happiness. The World Happiness Report, I would like to emphasise, is based on a very narrow measurement of happiness to build international ranking.

Ours is much comprehensive and broader, much more probing about reality, and what human beings are. They need not just income. They need to simultaneously many other aspects included in the nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

In ecological terms the leadership and achievement of Bhutan is quite significant in the world.

Amongst the nine domains of Gross National Happiness, one of them is Ecological Diversity and Resilience. And government of Bhutan has been led by the leadership of the Kings to maintain a very high environmental quality, so that people’s welfare, which is dependent intimately with the quality of the environment, is very high. The contributions of Bhutan to the global climate change and environment or positive vision is unusually high.

At the moment 72 percent of the surface area of Bhutan is forest covered. 52 percent of the country is preserved as protected nature. Bhutan is carbon negative. Most of its energy is supplied by hydroelectricity. So it is green energy. People in their daily life has access to nature.

I think sometimes size and scale impresses people. But the aims that are enshrined the United Nations Global Assessment Report released on 6th May 2019, are all met by Bhutan.

All its ideals, all its goals would have been met by Bhutan in the field of environment, climate change and biodiversity. But Bhutan is small to have a global impact. Nevertheless, what it does on a per capita basis is extremely outstanding.

Bhutan as a country has taken extraordinary burden for the sake of global climate and biodiversity.

SOUND: Bells and Nuns-of-bhutan.wav

Nine domains of Gross National Happiness

The nine domains of Gross National Happiness are Psychological well-being, that is emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Community Vitality: since we are social by nature, companionship and good relations are at the forefront of well-being. Time use: that means nobody should run out of time to do things that are vital to well-being and happiness. We have to have some freedom over our own time over 24 hours.

Ecological Resilience and Diversity. Cultural Diversity and Resilience. Good Governance. Education, Health and Standard of Living. So, these adds up to the nine domains. I listed them separately but in reality, they are highly interdependent.

And so, it is important to see them in relation to each other rather than in isolation.

I think they – the nine domains – are relevant to any place where there are human beings and other sentient beings.

That would take us into the question of how the indicators are constructed and how the indicators are used as benchmark in national planning in Bhutan.

Poverty is minimal definition of well-being. It is a survival definition of well-being. It’s not really well-being. Happiness is a maximal concept of well-being. It is attainable and achievable.

In Bhutan you know the definition of happiness in terms of nine domains is related to measurement. We construct a single number GNH Index and 33 sub-indicators of GNH. Altogether we use about two hundred and thirty different variables to estimate the GNH index and its 33 sub-indicators. So now you can see the distinction of GNH measurement against poverty and subjective well-being. Both the latter measurements are based on a narrower measure of wellbeing.

To simplify things, if an individual were to achieve a perfect score in GNH index, he or she would have to have one hundred and thirty variables. And in these one hundred and thirty variables are drawn from nine domains of GNH.

I’m very familiar with the World Happiness Report because I am one of its council members. The United Nation’s World Happiness Report, first of all, is an outcome of a Bhutanese initiative. The Government of Bhutan organised a U.N. High Level Expert Meeting in April 2012, in the United Nations, in New York. it made two recommendations at that time. One was that governments around the world should make Happiness and Well-being a focus of their public policy. That was the first recommendation. And the second one was that the United Nations should declare our World Happiness Day. So, both were implemented.

Now as a result of this high-level meeting in the United Nations, World Happiness Report came into being, led by John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs.

From measuring to policymaking

One of the characteristics of the GNH index, and its 33 sub indicators, is that It can be disaggregated at any level to the nth variable and nth individual. You can disaggregate the achievements across all domains, demographic variables or gender.

This enables us to then see by using GNH indicators as a sort of lens, where and whether there is a gender difference or discrepancy, or age specific discrepancies, geography specific discrepancies. Theses can be picked up so neatly by the indicators which is based on a national survey conducted every four years.

Social and economic planning is done for five years at a time, so our Gross National Happiness survey is done in fourth year and the results are fed into the five-year plan as benchmarks, targets, and policy focus areas.

We can measure by experiential outcomes such as emotions, health and happiness scores etc. or you can measure by means to happiness.

In terms of happiness, I must say that there is a gender difference in outcome. Women in this country score slightly less though it is not very significant at 95 percent confidence. However, this distinction between men and women, in the attainment of happiness, disappears above 50. The performance on the happiness scale is lower for a woman, if we if we compare women and men below the age of 50.

The important thing to appreciate is that Reproductive Health is playing a negative role.Therefore, the government, taking this finding into account is strengthening maternity and child health. It gave a long maternity leave of one year, out of which 6 months is paid. We have only seven days of paternity leave here. The relegation of domestic chores to women and the social care burden which fall traditionally on women, is one of the big problems in Bhutan.

Introduction of cooking facilities and electricity should help resolve gender discrepancy. Electricity up to 100 units is free for rural areas. Education, health, and so many other essential things, such as water supply, are also free.

Karma Ura welcoming PM of Bhutan to an international conference at the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies.

SOUND BRIDGE: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

ON Gross National Happiness Business Certification

Bhutan is a country which escaped colonisation. And it’s one of the very few countries in the world to have been that fortunate.

This means that the continuity of ideas of what a nation should be, or what human beings aspires have not been smashed by any external ideas.

The continuity of institutions and ideas have been able to survive in this country. Bhutan has continued to be a Buddhist and ecological welfare state.

Because of its adherence to Buddhist welfare and ecological state, free market ideas cannot take complete dominance here. And that is why, the global corporations have not been able to intrude very much.

Bhutanese foreign direct investment rules are very strict. Environmental and cultural bars are very high here.

Those who are just hunting for profit cannot find it very easy to come into Bhutan.

Last year, at the direction of the Bhutanese government the Centre for Bhutan and GNH studies developed what you call GNH business certification.

This assessment will be applied to all corporations and businesses in future.

On evolving Corporate Social Responsibility

For a long time, Corporate Social Responsibility was the end all of business. But the shortcomings in CSR is that it does not require businesses much transparency in how they should make money. It is how they dispose a certain small proportion of the profit. After CSR, a new model of business is benefit corporation or B-corp in short. But GNH business certification is much more advanced in my opinion because it applies the nine domains to the workings of corporations in a very explicit way.

GNH index and 33 indicators is designed for governance purpose. For example, derived from Gross National Happiness’s nine domains is the GNH policy screening tool that the government applies to formulate and pass every policy of the government. For example, 15 policies have undergone GNH policy screening out of 22 policies so far. We will do similar assessment now to corporations by using GNH business certification.

As far as Europe is concerned, next year, in late March 2020, we will be having an international conference in Parma, Italy. One day out of three will be devoted to GNH and GNH business certification.

The Centre for Gross National Happiness and Cultural Studies, Bhutan.


On limits to growth

Bhutan also has a very modest tourism policy.

Foremost for us as a society is that nothing should step beyond our environmental-ecological capacity, and our cultural carrying capacity.

Because of those concerns we limit the number of tourists. It is not to maximise profit. It is only an activity that should be consistent with the carrying capacity of the country. A large part of our country is not opened, but the Western side of the country is already receiving tourist number in excess of its carrying capacity, so we are going to slow down tourism there.

We are slowing down. A new policy will come out to slow down tourism and reduce numbers in western part of the Bhutan, in line with our infrastructure capacity, environmental capacity, and cultural capacity. For example, if a Buddhist festival in a village can take only a hundred tourists, we should limit tourists to 100; the input and output in any sector should be limited to the amount of throughput which you can digest. For example,

if the environment cannot digest then we should put a threshold on the number.

On the spectrum of values

The idea of sustainability is really linked to idea of threshold.

We have to have a certain limit in the size of activity, the size of industry, or the size of the sector. We should not let it balloon out of ecological context. Any industry – let us say, food industry or fashion industry can expand and swallow up the whole non-market areas. We should put a distinction between what is good to put on the market and what should be left out of the market.

Many things about culture should be under ‘non market.’ A lot of things about happiness and well-being is dependent on non-market exchange. Not market exchange. 

The reciprocity of time to give social and emotional support, cultural work and social work have a huge value on their own, they do not need to have market exchange value.

The whole sphere of culture and community should be under that kind of non-market relations. Reciprocity rather than transactions in the market. The psychological well-being domain is equally important now with the plague of mental health problems around the world. We need to devise ways in terms of indicators to check on the level of positive emotions across the population, like compassion, generosity, calmness, forgiveness contentment or conversely, we need measure the distribution of negative things like anger, jealousy, fear, sadness. We need to know more about them, because people may be seething with negative emotions although it is not showing up in the GDP.

Politicians will only use hidden negative emotions as another weapon in their hands for polarising the population. Governments need to know the interior world of the citizens – how they feel across the spectrum of negative and positive emotions.

An advance warning mechanism should be found to know the emotional state of the people. If you do not, then the only way to express these latent things will be to vote, which will be seized by polarising politicians. That is not healthy. Before it lands in the lap of radicalising politicians — scientists, psychiatrists, social scientists need to know. Planners need to know so that we can address them.

Karma Ura Walking with Karma Ura & Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

On Urban Happiness Framework

At this moment we are almost at the end of developing an Urban Happiness framework.

The Probability of being happy or unhappy Is so hugely influenced by whether we live now in urban cities or rural areas.

We have decided to work on urban happiness framework because in the four domains of GNH like psychological wellbeing, culture, ecology and community vitality, we find that urban residents lag behind the rural. They are surging ahead in terms of two domains living standard and education.

Division is emerging in the country between those who live in rural areas and in urban areas. Now we want to reduce this gap. We can assess the current state of city planning, and we can also guide city planning through urban happiness framework. The detail arrangement of the urban planning that is sensitive to well-being and happiness has become urgent, really urgent. It’s a structural issue.

END

CREDITS:

SOUND: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

Tanya Voice:

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

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com The music you heard with Dr. Karma Ura’s voice was composed by Karma Ura himself.

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

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

END

 

Become a Patron!

Dasho Dr. Karma Ura: ON HAPPINESS

Dasho Dr. Karma Ura is the president of the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies. Gross National Happiness is a term coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970’s.

Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Dr. Karma Ura’s career has spanned development goals, statistics and indicators, and policy applications, as well as Buddhist literature, fine arts and philosophy. As President of the Centre he also directs programs in The Library of Mind, Body and Sound, which brings together the internal and external aspects of well-being and happiness through research, individual practices and policy designs.

Dr. Karma Ura walking with the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

Karma Ura has studied to Ph.D level at St. Stephen’s College Delhi, Oxford University, Edinburgh University, and Nagoya University. He has been awarded the ‘Druk Khorlo,’ or Wheel of Dragon Kingdom Award, by His Majesty the King of Bhutan for his contributions to literature and fine arts. Karma Ura is also active as an artist and designer; he has designed numerous artistic artefacts, performances and temple frescoes, and created a national cultural festival that is held every year on December 13th on the scenic mountain pass of Dochula. Karma Ura has shared his expertise on Gross National Happiness across the world.

Dr. Karma Ura at the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcript Dr. Karma Ura, from Nordic By Nature Podcast ON HAPPINESS.

SOUND BRIDGE TO KARMA URA:

Karma Ura’s Upbeat music. His own composition.

Intro
I am Karma Ura, and I’m presently the president of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies. It is an autonomous government sponsored think tank, and it is located in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.

We have mandate to conduct research on Gross National Happiness, policy background studies and culture.

My background is in economics and philosophy at the master’s level, and PhD in International Development. So, all of my professional life, for some 30 years now, has been devoted to Alternative Development, its indicators and statistics on one side, and Buddhist Philosophy, Literature and Fine Arts, on the other.

Incidentally, I am also a painter and I design artefacts and performances. For example, I designed the 1000 denomination currency for Bhutan. I have painted the murals of a whole temple, and designed a national festival which is held on the 13th December every year.

An 18th century mural of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), considered to be the architect of Bhutan.

On Development

The idea of development is usually introduced from outside. It is a frequently based on idea of industrialisation and an expansion of the economy.

Alternative development involves indigenous ideas about how we should transform our societies. If you have certain different ideas about transformation of society, along with different destination goals, that would qualify as alternative development.

Goal, in the context of Bhutan would be happiness of the people.

The goals of development in the case of Bhutan involves nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

Living standard is only one of the nine goals of development. The others are, Health, Education and Living standards; these are fairly well-known ones and followed everywhere else. Slightly new ones are Good Governance, Environment or Ecological Resilience, and Cultural Diversity and Resilience. So that comes to six domains. But the last three domains are on the frontier of development, and these are Psychological Well-being, Community Vitality and Balanced Time Use over 24 hours. We in Bhutan consider these 9 domains of Gross National Happiness as cause and conditions of happiness.

SOUND: 2. SINGING KIDS BHUTAN.wav

On Gross National Happiness- the background

It was first explicitly coined in 1979 by the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

For some time, GNH was realised through legislation and policies of the government, led by him. But In 2008 Bhutan became a parliamentary democracy.

Since then governments have been elected through universal franchise, as you know. Constitution was also adopted, and the constitution obliges the government to pursue a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness, to guide politicians and bureaucrats to the long-term goals of Gross National Happiness.

In 2006, we adopted the concept of nine domains of Gross National Happiness, and along with it, we were directed by the fifth King of Bhutan to create Gross National Happiness Index. Since then we have had a quantitative framework of Gross National Happiness.

Measuring Happiness?

I think we have to be clear, when we talk about happiness, about how its measurement is laid out, what it measures, and on what the comparative ranking of the nations are based. As you know very well, the Nordic countries come on top in the ranking based on subjective well-being. We need to clarify a lot about international comparison and ranking of nations with regard to happiness. The World Happiness Report, I would like to emphasise, is based on a very narrow measurement of happiness to build international ranking.

Ours is much comprehensive and broader, much more probing about reality, and what human beings are. They need not just income. They need to simultaneously many other aspects included in the nine domains of Gross National Happiness.

In ecological terms the leadership and achievement of Bhutan is quite significant in the world.

Amongst the nine domains of Gross National Happiness, one of them is Ecological Diversity and Resilience. And government of Bhutan has been led by the leadership of the Kings to maintain a very high environmental quality, so that people’s welfare, which is dependent intimately with the quality of the environment, is very high. The contributions of Bhutan to the global climate change and environment or positive vision is unusually high.

At the moment 72 percent of the surface area of Bhutan is forest covered. 52 percent of the country is preserved as protected nature. Bhutan is carbon negative. Most of its energy is supplied by hydroelectricity. So it is green energy. People in their daily life has access to nature.

I think sometimes size and scale impresses people. But the aims that are enshrined the United Nations Global Assessment Report released on 6th May 2019, are all met by Bhutan.

All its ideals, all its goals would have been met by Bhutan in the field of environment, climate change and biodiversity. But Bhutan is small to have a global impact. Nevertheless, what it does on a per capita basis is extremely outstanding.

Bhutan as a country has taken extraordinary burden for the sake of global climate and biodiversity.

SOUND: Bells and Nuns-of-bhutan.wav

Nine domains of Gross National Happiness

The nine domains of Gross National Happiness are Psychological well-being, that is emotional and spiritual aspects of wellbeing. Community Vitality: since we are social by nature, companionship and good relations are at the forefront of well-being. Time use: that means nobody should run out of time to do things that are vital to well-being and happiness. We have to have some freedom over our own time over 24 hours.

Ecological Resilience and Diversity. Cultural Diversity and Resilience. Good Governance. Education, Health and Standard of Living. So, these adds up to the nine domains. I listed them separately but in reality, they are highly interdependent.

And so, it is important to see them in relation to each other rather than in isolation.

I think they – the nine domains – are relevant to any place where there are human beings and other sentient beings.

That would take us into the question of how the indicators are constructed and how the indicators are used as benchmark in national planning in Bhutan.

Poverty is minimal definition of well-being. It is a survival definition of well-being. It’s not really well-being. Happiness is a maximal concept of well-being. It is attainable and achievable.

In Bhutan you know the definition of happiness in terms of nine domains is related to measurement. We construct a single number GNH Index and 33 sub-indicators of GNH. Altogether we use about two hundred and thirty different variables to estimate the GNH index and its 33 sub-indicators. So now you can see the distinction of GNH measurement against poverty and subjective well-being. Both the latter measurements are based on a narrower measure of wellbeing.

To simplify things, if an individual were to achieve a perfect score in GNH index, he or she would have to have one hundred and thirty variables. And in these one hundred and thirty variables are drawn from nine domains of GNH.

I’m very familiar with the World Happiness Report because I am one of its council members. The United Nation’s World Happiness Report, first of all, is an outcome of a Bhutanese initiative. The Government of Bhutan organised a U.N. High Level Expert Meeting in April 2012, in the United Nations, in New York. it made two recommendations at that time. One was that governments around the world should make Happiness and Well-being a focus of their public policy. That was the first recommendation. And the second one was that the United Nations should declare our World Happiness Day. So, both were implemented.

Now as a result of this high-level meeting in the United Nations, World Happiness Report came into being, led by John Helliwell and Jeffrey Sachs.

From measuring to policymaking

One of the characteristics of the GNH index, and its 33 sub indicators, is that It can be disaggregated at any level to the nth variable and nth individual. You can disaggregate the achievements across all domains, demographic variables or gender.

This enables us to then see by using GNH indicators as a sort of lens, where and whether there is a gender difference or discrepancy, or age specific discrepancies, geography specific discrepancies. Theses can be picked up so neatly by the indicators which is based on a national survey conducted every four years.

Social and economic planning is done for five years at a time, so our Gross National Happiness survey is done in fourth year and the results are fed into the five-year plan as benchmarks, targets, and policy focus areas.

We can measure by experiential outcomes such as emotions, health and happiness scores etc. or you can measure by means to happiness.

In terms of happiness, I must say that there is a gender difference in outcome. Women in this country score slightly less though it is not very significant at 95 percent confidence. However, this distinction between men and women, in the attainment of happiness, disappears above 50. The performance on the happiness scale is lower for a woman, if we if we compare women and men below the age of 50.

The important thing to appreciate is that Reproductive Health is playing a negative role.Therefore, the government, taking this finding into account is strengthening maternity and child health. It gave a long maternity leave of one year, out of which 6 months is paid. We have only seven days of paternity leave here. The relegation of domestic chores to women and the social care burden which fall traditionally on women, is one of the big problems in Bhutan.

Introduction of cooking facilities and electricity should help resolve gender discrepancy. Electricity up to 100 units is free for rural areas. Education, health, and so many other essential things, such as water supply, are also free.

SOUND BRIDGE: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

ON Gross National Happiness Business Certification

Bhutan is a country which escaped colonisation. And it’s one of the very few countries in the world to have been that fortunate.

This means that the continuity of ideas of what a nation should be, or what human beings aspires have not been smashed by any external ideas.

The continuity of institutions and ideas have been able to survive in this country. Bhutan has continued to be a Buddhist and ecological welfare state.

Because of its adherence to Buddhist welfare and ecological state, free market ideas cannot take complete dominance here. And that is why, the global corporations have not been able to intrude very much.

Bhutanese foreign direct investment rules are very strict. Environmental and cultural bars are very high here.

Those who are just hunting for profit cannot find it very easy to come into Bhutan.

Last year, at the direction of the Bhutanese government the Centre for Bhutan and GNH studies developed what you call GNH business certification.

This assessment will be applied to all corporations and businesses in future.

On evolving Corporate Social Responsibility

For a long time, Corporate Social Responsibility was the end all of business. But the shortcomings in CSR is that it does not require businesses much transparency in how they should make money. It is how they dispose a certain small proportion of the profit. After CSR, a new model of business is benefit corporation or B-corp in short. But GNH business certification is much more advanced in my opinion because it applies the nine domains to the workings of corporations in a very explicit way.

GNH index and 33 indicators is designed for governance purpose. For example, derived from Gross National Happiness’s nine domains is the GNH policy screening tool that the government applies to formulate and pass every policy of the government. For example, 15 policies have undergone GNH policy screening out of 22 policies so far. We will do similar assessment now to corporations by using GNH business certification.

As far as Europe is concerned, next year, in late March 2020, we will be having an international conference in Parma, Italy. One day out of three will be devoted to GNH and GNH business certification.

On limits to growth

Bhutan also has a very modest tourism policy.

Foremost for us as a society is that nothing should step beyond our environmental-ecological capacity, and our cultural carrying capacity.

Because of those concerns we limit the number of tourists. It is not to maximise profit. It is only an activity that should be consistent with the carrying capacity of the country. A large part of our country is not opened, but the Western side of the country is already receiving tourist number in excess of its carrying capacity, so we are going to slow down tourism there.

We are slowing down. A new policy will come out to slow down tourism and reduce numbers in western part of the Bhutan, in line with our infrastructure capacity, environmental capacity, and cultural capacity. For example, if a Buddhist festival in a village can take only a hundred tourists, we should limit tourists to 100; the input and output in any sector should be limited to the amount of throughput which you can digest. For example,

if the environment cannot digest then we should put a threshold on the number.

On the spectrum of values

The idea of sustainability is really linked to idea of threshold.

We have to have a certain limit in the size of activity, the size of industry, or the size of the sector. We should not let it balloon out of ecological context. Any industry – let us say, food industry or fashion industry can expand and swallow up the whole non-market areas. We should put a distinction between what is good to put on the market and what should be left out of the market.

Many things about culture should be under ‘non market.’ A lot of things about happiness and well-being is dependent on non-market exchange. Not market exchange. 

The reciprocity of time to give social and emotional support, cultural work and social work have a huge value on their own, they do not need to have market exchange value.

The whole sphere of culture and community should be under that kind of non-market relations. Reciprocity rather than transactions in the market. The psychological well-being domain is equally important now with the plague of mental health problems around the world. We need to devise ways in terms of indicators to check on the level of positive emotions across the population, like compassion, generosity, calmness, forgiveness contentment or conversely, we need measure the distribution of negative things like anger, jealousy, fear, sadness. We need to know more about them, because people may be seething with negative emotions although it is not showing up in the GDP.

Politicians will only use hidden negative emotions as another weapon in their hands for polarising the population. Governments need to know the interior world of the citizens – how they feel across the spectrum of negative and positive emotions.

An advance warning mechanism should be found to know the emotional state of the people. If you do not, then the only way to express these latent things will be to vote, which will be seized by polarising politicians. That is not healthy. Before it lands in the lap of radicalising politicians — scientists, psychiatrists, social scientists need to know. Planners need to know so that we can address them.

Karma Ura Walking with Karma Ura & Prime Minister of Bhutan, Dr Lotay.

On Urban Happiness Framework

At this moment we are almost at the end of developing an Urban Happiness framework.

The Probability of being happy or unhappy Is so hugely influenced by whether we live now in urban cities or rural areas.

We have decided to work on urban happiness framework because in the four domains of GNH like psychological wellbeing, culture, ecology and community vitality, we find that urban residents lag behind the rural. They are surging ahead in terms of two domains living standard and education.

Division is emerging in the country between those who live in rural areas and in urban areas. Now we want to reduce this gap. We can assess the current state of city planning, and we can also guide city planning through urban happiness framework. The detail arrangement of the urban planning that is sensitive to well-being and happiness has become urgent, really urgent. It’s a structural issue.

END

CREDITS:

SOUND: KARMA URA’S MUSIC

Tanya Voice:

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

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

The music and sound has been designed by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com The music you heard with Dr. Karma Ura’s voice was composed by Karma Ura himself.

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

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

END

Episode 4: Tomas Björkman, ON TRANSFORMATION

Episode 4: ON TRANSFORMATION features the voice of Swedish social entrepreneur, Tomas Björkman. Tomas is a former investment banker and progressive thought leader, who is exploring how to create new spaces and places for co-creation, personal and societal transformation, and community development through conscious social development.

Tomas is the co-author of the book The Nordic Secret. He is a founding member of the Swedish youth association Protus for lifelonglearning and philosophical exploration. In 2016, he founded the Research Institute Perspectiva in London together with Jonathan Rowson – to inspire our political, academic and business leaders to examine real world problems with a deeper appreciation of the influence of our inner worlds.

In 2017, in partnership with the Norrsken foundation, Björkman launched the digital platform 29k to help people reconnect with themselves, like-minded people and what they value most in life. He has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014. He is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien or IVA.

Episode 4: Tomas Björkman ON TRANSFORMATION
Recorded Summer 2019

Tanya’s Voice

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

In this episode, On Transformation, we have one guest, Swedish social entrepreneur, and co-author of the The Nordic Secret, Tomas  Björkman.

After leaving the world of finance, Tomas established a Foundation out on a beautiful island in the Stockholm Archipelago. The Foundation has the sole purpose of facilitating sustainable social transformation, by nurturing the connections between personal and community development.

Tomas is also the co-founder of the London based Research Institute Perspectiva, and he has been a member of the Club of Rome since 2014.

Tomas Björkman

So, I’m Tomas Bjorkman. I used to be a business entrepreneur started many different companies in I.T. property and then in banking.

I was the chairman of this banking group, and I left business more or less completely in 2006, perhaps right in the middle of my life.

And I started to think about what to do with the with the second half of my life.

And I came to the conclusion that I wanted to start a foundation in as in Sweden; a foundation that was built around the island of Ekskäret, which means the Oak Tree Island, because I have always felt that it was in nature where I could come in good connection with the deeper layers within myself. And as I wanted to make the purpose of my foundation the interrelationship between in their personal development and societal change. It was never it was very natural for me to decide to base my foundation out in nature and use nature as a catalyst. So 2008 was mostly when I took the decision, and 2009 or 10 or there about, my foundation was up and running.

After that I’ve also started a small research institute in London called the Perspectiva and a few co-live and co-work initiatives both in Stockholm and also in Berlin.

Tomas at the Emerge conference in Kiev, 2019

I also managed to write three books.

The first one is called the Market Myth which really which really summarizes my inside view of the market; how the market in many ways is a very good and efficient tool that helps create a lot of efficiency and value, but in other instances it’s not at all a good instrument to rely on when it comes to creating a human well-being and societal well-being. So that was The Market Myth.

My second book’s called The World We Create with an emphasis on ‘we.’ There are many, many more aspects of the world than we usually think about that are actually human-created. I would say that perhaps 90 percent of the world we live in today is a human invention and could be radically different. One example of that is of course the market which we tend to look at as a natural phenomenon, but which is really a human construct, and even the free market if there ever would be such a thing, could essentially be completely different than it is today.

And then my latest book, which is written together with a Danish philosopher and friend Linda Anderson, is called the Nordic Secret and it’s really about how the emphasis on inner personal development played an essential role for the Nordic countries to transition, a hundred years ago, from being the poorest non-democratic agrarian countries in Europe into, just a few generations later, the happiest most wealthy stable, industrial democracies in in the world.

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On Human Timelines

So the story I tell in my book The World We Create is really the story of a humanity from the very, very early stages, when we became humans more or less perhaps a couple of million years ago; the invention of fire, perhaps half a million years ago, to the start of culture perhaps 50,000 years ago, and the ongoing story about technological evolution.

And of course, humanity has taken many big steps and in the technological evolution, say the invention of agriculture, was something that completely changed the way we lived and related and we started to build huge cities and empires on the back of agriculture.

So technological development is nothing new, but today the speed of technological development is at such a rate that we’ve never seen anything like that before. And that creates a lot of problems, a lot of stress, but also of course it’s the technological development that we have to thank for all the for the beautiful lives that we can live today compared to our ancestors.

I sometimes say that even looking at my own grandparents, when they were teenagers, the world that they were living in that back then was such a poor and difficult world than the world that we are living in today. I don’t just mean the few percent of the human population in the rich countries, but really, I would say that perhaps even 90 percent of the world’s population today live in a world that my own grandparents when they were teenagers would just think was a fantastic dream world.

A meta-crisis

I think that the Enlightenment that was really the last time when we had a very substantial transition in both society and in worldview.

We have the Enlightenment and the scientific approach to the world to thank for this development, but also and at the same time I think that the many problems that we see today, many, many of the human made problems that humanity is facing today is actually now caused by exactly that same world view. This rationalistic scientific worldview.

You could you could say that all these different crises that we see today, of course we have the environmental crisis, which might even be the most urgent crisis we have today. But we also seem to be entering into a very severe political crisis. We certainly have health issues on a scale that we haven’t seen before. Not the least. The for example the obesity crisis in many parts of the world not just the rich West.

Now we have the opiate crisis in in the U.S.. We have everywhere in the West the psychological ill health crisis. And we have the inequality crisis that is both an increased inequality within countries but also between countries. And all of these crises, I think, are not different crises, they are actually symptoms on one underlying…which we could call.. a meta-crisis of our time.

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Three unprecedented challenges

Humanity has many times before gone through these radical transformations both a world view and of society. But this transformation that we are now going through is different from the previous ones in three major aspects. And the first one is the speed of transformation. The second one is the global impact on the environment. And the third one is the possibility of going from a world of scarcity to a world a world of abundance of well-being not necessarily material abundance but abundance of well-being.

And if I take a minute to unpack each of them so starting with the rate of change. So before say when we went from an agricultural society to an industrial society, we usually had the possibility to make that transition or adapt to these changes between generations. So perhaps my grandfather was a farmer and his father was a farmer. But then when the industrial revolution happened his sons and daughters might have given up farming and moved to the city, whereas my grandfather and grandmother could remain farmers for the rest of their life.

1. Technology

Now as technological technology shifts that fast that we actually in our own lifetime have to reinvent ourselves many times. And if you just think back on your own life even if you are not that old you could think about how many completely different technological worlds have you actually already lived in.

I remember a world before television. Then of course we had the introduction of mobile phones so the world before mobile phones and after mobile phones are completely different worlds and then of the personal computing and then Internet and then the smartphones.

And each of these technological steps have really been that that significant that you have had to both the reinvent your business and business models but also your private life to a large extent.

So, say that we now live in a world where we might have to reinvent our lives and our careers every 10 years. Soon that will be every fifth year and then it might be every second year. And this is not very far away. And of course, that will put a lot of psychological stress on us.

And again, this is the first time in humanity where we are sort of forced to live in this very rapidly changing environment and are our brains are not evolved for this. But then so far in the history of humanity we have had the possibility most of us to live in the world that we were actually born into.

2. Environmental Impact

So that’s the first one. that’s the second important shift is of course that we are moving from a world where we humans did not have a significant impact on the global climate. We might have exploited and overused our local natural resources but then we had the perhaps the possibility to move on and nature could heal. Now the impact there. We as humans have on climate is on a global scale.

And again our brains are not really evolved to see this.

And that is one of the problems that we have today that we do not in an emotional way perceive the way we are destroying nature. because of course during the environment of evolutionary abductees version of our are human systems of of feelings we did not impact nature in that way so that we did not have any reason to to develop these feelings. And now when we when we need them, we are we are lacking them. And that is why for many people this environmental catastrophe that we are entering into does not really move them emotionally.

3. From Scarcity to Abundance

So that’s the second shift and then the third one is that we have like any animals throughout evolution been living in a world of competition and of scarcity. And our minds are really hardwired for scarcity, but also are our economic systems and our society is as wired for scarcity. So, for the market for example to function you need to have a a limited supply that meets the demand.

So also the market needs scarcity, whereas hopefully with the technological development,
if we could just distribute all the wealth that are current economic and technological the system produces, if we distribute that wealth in a just fashion then we already today have enough wealth for all of us to be living very decent lives, and again lives that my grandparents when they were teenagers could only dream of.

Of course we will not all be able to drive cars and consume material goods at the level that we do in the West today but still there is enough for everyone to be able to live a life in an abundance of well-being.

That is of course good news if we are entering into a world where we as humans do not need to work 40 hours a week 40 years of our lives.

That should be essentially be very good news for everyone. But if you look upon this possibility through the lens of the labour market what you then see is the threat of massive unemployment so again we can’t approach a world of potential abundance with a mindset and social systems that are geared and developed around the concept of scarcity so these three major challenges technological shift environmental threat and the possibility to go from a from a world of scarcity to abundance.

That is for me really the challenge and the tipping point and the hurdle that humanity needs to pass through right now. And for that to happen in a good way I think that we need to both change, have a change of mind and a change of heart. And when I speak about a change of mind, I’m thinking about the world view that we have today, the Enlightenment worldview, the reductionist worldview, the scientific worldview.

We shouldn’t give that worldview up completely because it is very helpful especially in some situations, but it definitely needs to be complemented with other ways of looking at ourselves and society and the world.

We also need to have this change of heart which is an which is an inner change, which is the change of opening up to these greater possibilities of us humans. And you could talk about the development of the heart development of compassion the development of consciousness.

You can describe this in many different ways and one way to describe them is really our need to develop what some might call it transformative skills.

And that’s really the skill sets that we need both as individuals to be able to survive and to flourish in this very new world but that also is essential for humanity when it comes to navigating this great societal transition that I think that we are just starting to see and see the beginning of.

On transformative skills

So, if we should look a little bit deeper into these different groups or clusters of transformative skills. And of course, these transformative skills they are they are many different. And it’s a bit arbitrary how you would cluster them and put them under various headlines but one way to do it is to talk about the cluster of openness the cluster of perspectives seeking the cluster of sense making the cluster around our inner world and developing and coming into contact with our inner compass.

And then finally a cluster around compassion that could include things like empathy, compassion, and self-compassion and other forms.

If you study these clusters of skills from a scientific perspective,

the good news is that science has shown quite consistently that all of these skills can be developed. So, for example you are not born with a certain amount of empathy or openness or ability to seek different perspectives.

That’s the good news. They can be developed. The bad news is that they can’t be taught in in in the standard way of sort of school teaching. So, for example if you in your organization, have someone that need to develop more empathy or compassion.

You could not just send him or her on a three-day course in compassion and then they come back with a new amount of compassion developed. No doesn’t work like that.

So these transformative skills really need a form of learning that involves deeper psychological processes.

Many or most of them subconscious processes and some researchers call that form of learning that is necessary transformative learning it is learning that somehow transforms the way you see the world and how you generate emotions.

It’s somehow a transformation of your mind and of your or of your heart.

And again going back to the work of my foundation, we have found and I have personally found that being out in nature and be in close contact with nature actually can function very well as a catalyst for transformative learning.

In this rapidly changing world where we do not know which will be my next step in career how will I have to reinvent my myself, then a safe bet is always that we will be needing more and more of these transformative skills.

So if I would give it an advice to anyone who is right in the middle of their career and worried about the future, and their employability in the future, I would say if you look at developing these sorts of transformative deeper skills they will always be needed.

And the same for your children.

We do not know what the what the labour market will look like in 10 years, or even less in in in in in 20 years.

Here in Sweden the politicians are today talking about that we should all learn programming, but the experts tell me that programming is one of the first tasks that will be automated by our artificial intelligence.

I would say that these transformative skills these deeper skills they will always be in demand. So I so I would put a strong emphasis on them.

And again the last time we have this huge shift in worldview that was when we went from a religious dogmatic way of looking at the world to start to look at the world through a rational scientific worldview. And that was a drastic change in worldview.

And I think we are right now in the need of an equally drastic change. This time I don’t think it’s about giving up. The scientific world view I think it’s about complimenting the scientific worldview and perhaps integrating the insights of both the scientific worldview but also perhaps the religious or spiritual worldview that is putting much, much more emphasis on our inner world and our capacity for meaning making, and complement that also with the latest insights from perhaps the post-modern worldview which contains very important insights about the hidden power structures in society and the way that our human society is socially constructed.

5 Shifts in Worldview

So, I think going forward and the new worldview will contain many lenses through which we need to see the world. To be even more specific, I could talk about five shifts in worldview and I think that we need to consider.

The first one would be to go away from looking at the looking at ourselves as just isolated individuals. These utility maximizing individuals that economic theory will have us believe that we are to start realizing that we are all as humans very. very much more interconnected and interdependent on each other.

And that just maximizing my own happiness or my own utility is really not possible. My happiness is dependent on the happiness of people around myself. And we are all interconnected.

So that could be one shift in worldview, a second one could be to realize that in many, many cases it’s much, much more fruitful to look upon phenomenon in this world not as things, but as ongoing processes and to start to realize that most of the phenomena in our world are actually self-organizing, developing systems, and applying a systems view on the world, an evolutionary systems view on the world, could be very fruitful.

The next shift would be a in in the view of our mind and going away from again the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision making machine, to start realizing that our mind is actually also one of these constantly developing complex systems, that are under the development throughout our lives and that this development can either be facilitated or hindered by our environment. And then number four would be to go from a view of our society as more or less something given to start realizing that we are actually all co-creators of society and that society is something that is socially constructed by all of us.

And that whether we are aware of it or not we are either replicating or constructing society. And once we become aware of the fact that we are all co-creators of our social reality or our collective imaginary then of course that is very empowering but also giving us a huge responsibility in the ways that we create this social reality.

And then finally the fifth shift in worldview I think we’ll have to be around the view of our lives, and start realizing that ‘more’ is not necessarily better, and move away from a focus on development life and progress in mainly material terms of a material growth and material wealth to start realizing that inner matters like purpose and meaning becomes very, very important.

If you start to see the world from these new perspectives you start seeing a completely different world. And many of the political decisions and the structures and the struggles and the fights that we see today all of a sudden makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The Nordic Secret

So this development of these transformative skills that I was talking about has actually happened before. We have a very interesting historical case in the development of some of the Nordic countries and how we as societies went from being in the middle of the 1800’s, the most poor agrarian, non-democratic societies in in Europe, in Sweden actually 30 percent of the working population emigrated to the U.S. because of the severe conditions in Sweden back then.

And then we developed in just a few generations even before the Second World War. When all the Nordic countries were at the top of the list when it came to their happiest richest most stable industrial democracies.

And the question one could ask is of course what made this possible. And the interesting story that Leon and I tell in the Nordic secret is that we actually back then in the Nordic countries in all of the Nordic countries had very visionary intellectuals and politicians.

And they and they could see that change coming of course because they saw the industrial revolution happening in the UK and on the continent.

And they knew that urbanization and industrialization was coming to the Scandinavian countries. and they knew that in such situations of societal change it’s so easy for us humans to start looking for something to hold on to in the in the external world you want to find something to which you can put your hope.

And that could be a dogmatic religion, or it could be a strong authoritarian leader. It could be an Erdogan or a Trump, but these visionary politicians were firmly committed to building democratic societies.

And they knew that the only way to build strong democracies is to build them bottom up. And in order to do that you need a substantial part of the population to actually be able to hold the complexity of rapid social change without needing an external authority. You needed a large part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves to be in contact with their own in their compass in order to become conscious co-creators of the new world that wanted to be born.

The way they went about to create enabled co-creators, emancipated co-creators, was quite extraordinary. Because what they did was that they created what we could call ‘retreat centres.’

Retreat centres for inner growth, to develop transformative skills and other capacities.

So, at the turn of the last century. The year 1900 about. There were actually 100 of these centres created in Denmark, 75 in Norway, and 150 in Sweden, and in most other cases these centres were located out in nature and we’re using nature as a transformative catalysts in these processes.

Here young adults in their early ‘20s, and back then you had probably been working a few years before you went to one of these retreats sense of all of these retreats. And you could spend up to six months, later on with a full state subsidy, at these retreat centres, with the express aim of finding your inner compass, and of becoming enough grounded in yourself to be able to act as conscious co-creators of modernity.

In addition to developing your own inner compass, you were also given basic tools to create the civil civic society organizations, how to start an NGO, how to write a speech, how to write an article, how to argue for your case, and also you learned the latest technological development in the industry or in craft in order for you to be able to embrace the technological developments and not be afraid of them.

And when this was at its height almost a hundred years ago from now say around the 1920s or something like that then 10 percent of each young generation in Sweden actually had the opportunity to go to one of these half year long retreats.

And this was everywhere in the population. This was very much working class and farming part of the population that took part of some of these retreats. So everywhere in society you had people who had enough inner guidance and stability to be able to act as co-creators of modernity and the democratic society.

And still today in Scandinavia, we see the effects of this massive scale resources devoted to in their personal development. This Nordic secret is actually a secret also to ourselves, because we lost the notion of the importance of the inner world at around the time of the second world war, when we became very positivistic, very scientific, and we are more or less started to look at the inner world our subjectivity more as a problem than as a possibility.

So today even In our history books these centres are not described as centres for consciousness development or development of transformative skills that they are more or less described as adult educational centres and they still exists today and they are called Folk schools and they still receive a massive state funding.

But their activities are more in the realm of updating your or your basic schooling or doing crafts or cultural activities so one could ask oneself so. So, where did this understanding from this these early politicians and intellectuals in Scandinavia come from? 

How did they know the importance of our in their world and also the connection between the inner development and societal development?

And the answer there is that this understanding came from the German idealist philosophers that were writing at the beginning of the 1800’S. Philosophers like Goethe, Schiller, Von Humboldt, Hegel, and all of these philosophers. They were actually writing and reacting against the Enlightenment philosophers view of our mind as a rational decision-making machine.

For example, John Locke or indeed Reneé Descartes. Our mind is actually an organic system that is embodied in the totality of our bodies. So our mind is not just in our brain our mind is embodied in the totality of our bodies and our mind is all so embedded and very dependent on the cultural environment.

And these views of our mind are actually now more and more being confirmed by both contemporary developmental psychology but also contemporary mind research.

Our minds are actually embodied in the totality of our bodies and dependent on and embedded in our culture. They also knew that a very important step in this lifelong development of our mind is the step that we that some of us take as adults, not all of us, in shifting from becoming external directed to becoming inner directed.

On democracy

Most people are still looking for an external authority. So far for democracy to really develop, you need to have a substantial part of the population, not necessarily a majority but a substantial part of the population to be enough grounded in themselves and be in contact with their own in a compass for democracy to work. And that is exactly what the politicians, the early Democratic politicians in Scandinavia and the intellectuals, took note of. And that is why they created these centres, these educational centres for transformative skills, for consciousness development and not the least developing their inner compass.

And it actually worked.

We have forgotten about this history and we are starting to lose this a little bit. Up until today we have forgotten about the importance of our inner world. And we are not any longer talking about consciousness development or lifelong development of our mind. We forgotten about these transformative skills and the importance to actually actively cultivate for example compassion.

But I see now in in Scandinavia a bit of an awakening and a bit of a real realization of this importance of the inner world and that is coming from perhaps an unexpected place; it’s coming from the corporate world actually, because as I speak with many people in the corporate world that are seriously concerned about the abilities of their organizations to keep up with this rapidly changing technological and social environment.

And this puts a lot of strains both on the corporations but also to all those individuals within the corporations, and quite a few H R departments are starting to realize that it is not just necessary to focus on the maturation and in the development of the top management.

But now a realization is starting to grow that in order for organizations to be adaptable enough and agile enough to constantly reinvent themselves in this rapidly changing technological and social environment, these skills are now skills that everyone in the organization needs to develop.

So then if this was so important in an in the corporate world and we started to realize this in the in the corporate world and in corporate literature and management consultant and in executive training why did we not at all talk about this in the same way and in society? Or societal development?

And I hope that these insights will spread rapidly out in society.

I think if not the least the environmental catastrophe that we are facing makes it absolutely necessary to again look at internal development and consciousness development on a societal scale, this becomes a major concern for not just corporations but for society.

And there I think, and there I hope that the Nordic countries again can play a leading role. So if I should say something about the uniqueness of of the Scandinavian model, I would use the analogy with with an organization and these new self-organizing organization. Some people talk about that in the new organization have to be a deliberately developmental organization. A deal where the organization actually supports the development of. All. Individuals within the organization to reach their full. Potential. And I think that the Scandinavian. Model. Originally. A. Hundred years ago the. Vision was. To create a deliberately developmental society. A DDR as. A society. Which. Actively supported. Every individual’s, every citizen’s possibility to reach their full potential.

And I think in the rapidly developing world we need to somehow come back to that it’s not just the the oh the ah tech companies that need to compete on an international market that needs to become Deliberately Developmental organizations. I think all nations now need to become deliberate deliberately developmental societies. And I think that that was really at the core of the Scandinavian model.

We can at least have a vision about what is a good process and how do we create that good process of moving forward.

And I think there is where we need to have the Democratic debate today and there is where we need to have a vision. And again I think part of that vision is already today creating a deliberative developmental society where as many people as possible in society can become and really feel liberated emancipated and empowered to be able to participate in the creation on the future world in the creation of the world that we together create.

Credits

Tanya’s voice:

You can find more information about Tomas Björkman and his foundation on his website

www.tomas-bjorkman.com

Nordic by Nature Podcast is an ImaginaryLife.net production. Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on info@imaginarylife.net

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Leadership, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram. 

Sound design is by Diego Losa. See diegolosa.blogspot.com

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Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE

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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 in 2011.
Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.

Hashtags to copy: tracesofnorth, Deep ecology, Arne Naess, arnenaess, deepecology, ajayrastogi, nooranoor, judithschleicher, christopheberhard, ecology, conservation, resilience, UNSDG, The Nordics, decolonisation, transformation, bioregionaldevelopment, peace dialogue, sustainability, climate crisis, biodiversity, global challenges, society and culture, monikakucia, danielwahl, helenanorberg-hodge, satishKumar, extinctionrebellion, climateuprising, sitikasim, ajayrastogi, tanyakimgrassley, Sweden, swedishstyle, tomasbjörkman, karmaura, judithschleicher, universitycambridge, davidattenboroughhouse, cambridgeconservationists, egypt, ajayrastogi, mindfulness, foundnature, christopheberhard, peacedialogues

For translation into Spanish please click here.

Transcript episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE

Tanya’s Voice:

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

Naess used the term ‘self-realization’ to indicate a kind of imagined perfection, a process, and a goal for both for the individual and for community. This podcast: On Inner-Resilience combines Naess’ idea of Self realisation with a view of human equilibrium, but it should only be used if it includes a sense of inner joy and benevolence to the world. It can be defined by a number of characteristics:

For example…

Number 1. Inner Resilience is meaningful and desirable, but it can sometimes be painful. It is not synonymous with comfort. It is a process of spiritual maturity, where a person acts more consistently from themselves as a whole.

Number 2. Inner Resilience is a continuous process. It can be achieved through knowledge and learning, but it demands a consistent practice that includes the cultivating, communicating and sharing of compassionate values.

Number 3. Inner Resilience evolves new types of skills that are needed for transformation; including Empathy, Respect, Humility, Consensus-building, and Co-creation.

Number 4. We are constantly changing and cannot be separated from the planetary processes that we are part of. Our own health and wellbeing cannot exist at the expense of others, nor the biological or cultural diversity that is the nature of life.

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Ajay Rastogi will begin by introducing the secular, nature-centred mindfulness practice, that he developed and teaches at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature in the Himalayan village of Majkhali in Uttarakhand, India.

Ajay Rastogi at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.

Then you will hear the words of Noor A Noor, an Egyptian conservationist at the University of Cambridge who describes his own personal path into conservation and mindfulness – through his family, through music, and through the traumatic experiences of The 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

We will then hear Judith Schleicher. Judith explains how daily meditation has helped her with her conservation work, ever since she attended a 10-day Vipassana retreat in Peru 7 years ago.

Lastly, we meet Christoph Eberhard, legal anthropologist and practitioner of the Chinese and Indian traditional arts Ta Ji Chuan, Qi Gong and Yoga. Christoph believes that dialogue is at the heart of meaningful transformation- dialogue with oneself, with others, with nature, and the beyond.

This podcast is designed for you to listen with headphones.
I hope you can make some time to simply enjoy listening.

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Ajay:

Hi my name is Ajay Rastogi.
And we live in the village of Majkhali. It’s in the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayan region.

And it’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi. And we overlook the high Himalayas. Many 6000 meters high peaks from maybe. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in the society which are needed for sustainability required that we also relook at the approach that we have taken so far in the environmental movements.

So, for that reason I was thinking what can be more transformative than a meditative practice, which can be done in nature.

Meditation is being considered as the methodology for inner transformation.

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The contemplation of nature is done in a natural surrounding.
It’s a multi-sensory experience.

It helps because we are a biological organism and, therefore we have an inherent drive to connect with nature. It’s kind of we are genetically wired, so it is not that abstract as many people find many other meditative practices to be. So, it is a good beginning.

People can begin with it and then get to deeper levels of meditation whichever part they want to follow. But meditation in nature contemplation of nature is definitely an approach which can be done on a daily basis and it leads to that level of tranquillity and gives us the benefits of the meditation the compassion the kindness and the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.

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At about 23rd minute a tranquillity factor causes deeper trigger or physiological relaxation. Which brings the body and the internal chemistry, in a much more regulatory and balanced way.

That’s called the relaxation response, and that’s what we are trying to achieve, also at the physiological level besides the psychic and other benefits, that the meditation will bring.

So, as we sit and observe with a soft gaze

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One may not have access to such landscapes so it can be done indoors.
And it can be done with very simple objects of nature, then following the three steps of native contemplation that we have designed.

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So the three steps simple three steps is observe nature with a soft gaze except with gentle detachment and send love with sympathetic attention.

Observe nature with a soft gaze, we accept the gentle detachment remaining. Not interested in finding details. Of course, the mind would wander here and there but as soon as we realized that we have gone further and drifted we can come back to observe nature with a soft gaze.

One additional element which is a very important element of Need contemplation practice is to let go and this happens by just as we sit down and begin our contemplation, we send love with sympathetic attention, we just remind ourselves of the gratitude the feeling of gratitude. And then we sit, observe softly with a gaze, and continue a gentle detachment.

The let go is not to make any judgment about where we are What are we doing. And this is a step which is a transcendental in nature and therefore it is very therefore itself a fundamental aspect of the practice that we are able to somehow transcend this call of judgment and thinking mind at least for a little while.

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Noor A Noor:

My name is Noor Noor. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian doing a masters in Conservation Leadership. Before coming to Cambridge, I spent the last 7 years managing Nature Conservation Egypt which is an NGO, working on the conservation of habitat species and local communities.

Growing up I I was a child of the city. My parents Were very active for social justice and for political rights and economic rights. However, they didn’t bring me into nature… it wasn’t part of my upbringing.

In 2011, Egypt saw one of its most incredible yet traumatic uprisings where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians went to the street to call for bread, freedom, and social justice. And obviously everything that stems from those three components.

As a result significant changes came about some of them were for the better but lots of them were for the worse. We were met with huge violence. Met with huge violence from the people that were in charge at the time specifically the armed forces or the army.

There was constant conflict between protesters that are calling for a complete transition to a more democratic,

Human rights-oriented government. And as a result…There was heavy persecution and Egyptians still remain heavily persecuted by the state.

Throughout 2011, myself as well as hundreds of thousands of other Egyptians who were taking part in these demonstrations, had to run for their lives. More than enough times.

To realize that that that life isn’t really as it seems once you’ve actually had to run for your life.

I had went from always being prepared to sacrifice myself for the cause to realizing that I am actually more useful let’s say, if I try to survive, and part of that realisation came the by spending time and nature for the first time.

I was spending a significant amount of time in nature and learning about nature and teaching nature as well as conserving nature as a part of my new jobs that I had assumed in 2012 and by spending more time in nature.

By understanding nature more I ended up understanding myself more. Bit by bit I ended up encountering mindfulness.

Which at the beginning I hated as a term because I felt it was very counter intuitive. The more I read up into mindfulness the more it really resonated. On a theoretical level, on a political level, and on a personal level. By spending time in nature by understanding how it works, by letting oneself be inspired and be healed by nature; That in itself is a mindful process.

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Essentially one had encountered so much physical and emotional trauma in that one year whether inflicted upon myself or even worse seeing it inflicted on those that I cared about or even those that I did not know. But we share the common political ground. Accumulated traumas from that still are carried by myself as well as thousands of others to this day.

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There’s no romanticisation of revolution there’s no romanticisation of Conflict and uprising. But I am absolutely grateful… because of how I ended up having to respond to these traumas.….. even politically How to better see how we can…be better as a holistically as a planet…. Get through the inevitable crises that we are facing and will continue to face at an exponential rate in the future.After the 2011 uprisings I was adamant on working in the field and I ended up getting a job managing an NGO working in nature conservation as well as working with a company that does educational environmental tourism and it’s a company called Dima. It made me aware of certain dimensions relating to our survival to relating to sustainability relating to the battles that we are trying to fight for justice.

I realized the importance of of Nature, and of the natural resources that we depend on.
What many people are realizing now is that all political and economic and even social dynamics relating to us as a species to us humans as a species are directly or indirectly related to our relationship with surrounding nature. The fact that we continue to separate ourselves from the things that keep us alive. Starting from our food all the way to even the air that we breathe in the oxygen that comes from that comes from other living beings and other habitats on this planet.

Our separating ourselves from the nature we depend on, is at the heart of some of the existing conflict over resources, as well as the trajectory that we’re taking towards the collapse of the systems that support us.
Political ecologies is excellent as a term in encompassing this. It says that…Whenever we look at nature and its resources, we need to think about the political, social and economic structures that govern nature. If we’re going to talk about its conservation. 

And at the same time, if we’re looking at development; We need to think about the ecological processes that support. These social processes.
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To be honest, we’re all implicated.

The phone that I’m using now to speak with you. About sustainability the components that were used to make this phone are not sustainable. The coffee that I am sipping on at the moment is is it supposed to be ethically sourced but in the end, it’s probably come from somewhere very far away. That in itself, we’ve become so dependent on these things.

Back when I was 15, my father was imprisoned by the Mubarak regime. Or The regime that was in power in Egypt for 30 years. My father was sentenced to four five years in prison. At that time, I remember specific telling myself things like alright. You have a minute to feel whatever you want to feel

And then as soon as that minute’s done. Switch it off. Switch it off, go back continue about your day don’t revel in your head, just move along and I remember being 15 and telling myself these things. And while obviously that might not always be the best solution. I remember forcing myself to just to be able to disconnect from the anxieties and the fears in my head.

To be able to just continue to function. Ten years later when I found myself…. Acknowledging my anxiety for the first time, I realized that I’ve been breathing wrong my entire life. We’re not taught how to breathe when we’re kids no one tells you to breathe through your stomach when you’re a child.

In my last year of university I was I was studying political science and law and then my last year I got involved in a music project that made music out of garbage.

So recycling and upcycling waste to make music and to raise environmental and social and political awareness using it using music as as a means. That music project introduced me to the people that I ended up working with for the years to come.

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Judith Schleicher

I’m Judith Schleicher. I am a postdoc in the Geography department here in the University of Cambridge and I also work together currently as a consultant with U.N. Environment world conservation monitoring centre. I’ve always been interested in tropical forests the diversity the people who live there the cultural diversity biodiversity everything and trying to protect that and also understanding people and the relationship with them better. When I was doing my PhD I started meditating a lot and then when there was opportunity to work on the relationship between nature and people after my page that just seemed to bring all these things together.

Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.

From this location what we can see is concrete and a parking lot. And you know if that’s the environment people grow up and we even get less connected with age I think that not only has a very negative impact on our passive development in our personal growth and our society but it also means that in the future we might care even less about what we have left. I think what is particularly important is that we also look inwards we need to think about ourselves our own well-being and work on making the changes from within. And then we can make changes beyond that. And so I think those are the kind of things that really need to be part of our education system how we grow up. What are the things that really matter in our lives.

Children spend so much time in schools being taught so many things that are just involving our intellect in terms of thinking about it but they don’t really think about how do we build emotional resilience how do we think about our wellbeing how do we think about it own mindset. Really taking care of that is so important. And if we could make that a fundamental part of a person’s life when they grow up from where they grew up I think that would be a huge positive change.

I would love to see for example mindfulness a meditation being part of the normal school curriculum and then people start thinking about what is it that matters in my life. And what are the things that are important.

We really internalize all of those things and then we can also have the discussion at a much broader scale. As a community scale to society scale as a national scale of which the direction we want to go into. But it really has to start at a personal level. So. Many people are not familiar with it and they don’t really know what it means. They might as you said for example Buddhism whether they have religious connotations when it doesn’t have to.

It can be secular. Nothing to do with religion. Spiritual doesn’t mean that you have to but even one specific religion. It can be really challenging to work in conservation because you’re always fighting an uphill battle. Basically you’re always confronted with bad news and also the way often we talk about it is in a very negative way.

I was improving my fieldwork and lots of things were going wrong. And then my friend said who’s been meditating for a very long time. She’d started when she was a teenager and she said oh there’s this meditation course. Ten-day silent course coming up, and in Lima where are, It’s like why didn’t you just do it? I was like sure I’d never thought about what meditation is or anything.

So I was like Sure. And then one night I said I was like Why would I do that.

I just did this 10-day course without knowing anything about it. I didn’t know what meditation was. I had no idea what I would get myself into. I was amazing experience life changing. I mean in a 10 day course you go through so many things and ups and downs but every minute you put into it it’s worth it. I had so many positives but the strongest one was definitely this sense of inner peace that I’ve never felt that way before.

Not only just knowing but really feeling that happiness or contentment has nothing to do with anything external.

And of course, that’s things that we might intellectually know but really feeling it is a very different things and experiencing it. You know of course there is always daily struggles of internalizing it. And that will continue that knowing that is a very big gift to experience. I’ve done a few of these courses and every time at the end it’s just so nice when you haven’t talked for while.

For 10 days as your mind is just so focussed and so clear and you realize how we are impacted by all this chatter and so much information being fed into our brain all the time you really realize what the impact is. As soon as you start talking your mind just goes crazy.

One very important first step is awareness. So you know when you’re saying that you feel you become more sensitive but maybe you’ve just become aware of something that was always there as just that before you weren’t aware of it. So that means you couldn’t look after your body in the way that it needed attention maybe otherwise. You know. The same processes might have gone on is just that you wouldn’t have been aware of the impact it had on you. I mean I can totally connect with what you said about nature providing that space where you can develop all these things. Many of the things that I experienced through meditation of I guess they just came naturally in nature before. If I sit in a forest which is the environment I love, I feel never alone. I can feel alone be surrounded by lots of people are being in a non-natural environment. But I will not feel alone if I’m just in a forest and just being. Whereas in our society we always tool we have to be productive. We have to be doing we have to be doing things. It’s much more healthy to move away from that at least some time and just be be it with nature or be it with other people. And that is what ultimately creates contentment and happiness from within. And Nature provides the natural space for doing that.

Your mind is just in the moment.

The meditation course where I was helping over the years, so I was in the kitchen we were cooking 430 140 people. Which is it can be very demanding because you know cooking for so many people and very strict, strict time slots is probably what many people would call a stressful environment with people I’ve never worked together with but they were all meditators and they’re all aware or at least much more conscious about these things. And it was not only a work very well it was also good fun and we were great teamwork. So, if I could translate that into my day to day world everyone would be amazing.

I started meditation 7 years ago. I meditate daily at least one hour a day sometimes more. I mean it makes a huge difference to my day to day life. And it’s also made a huge difference of how I probably think about conservation.

Before I started meditating all that gloom and doom rhetoric sometimes can be really disempowering and make you feel just really difficult to think that you can really make a positive change in what if you don’t.

So that is very difficult sometimes to grasp. With meditation I also had a sense that you know we’ll be fine eventually, and nature will be able to cope whether humans were kept to cope. That’s a different question. I guess yes it made me more peaceful from within that I can do whatever I can in my possibilities to fight for a more just and more environmentally sustainable world. But I can be fine with whatever happens.

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Christoph Eberhard

I’m Christopher Eberhard… I’m Austrian. Now, I’m based in the South of France, Archachon.

To put it in a nutshell like my whole life has been devoted to, um, I would say a quest for peace, or harmony; a living harmony.

So, it manifested on the one hand, let’s say more social sciences. I had a career as a legal anthropologist, between Law and Social Sciences, trying to see how we could live together in a more dialogical way, understanding each other and harmonizing each other a bit better.

And then the second aspect was like dialogue with inner dialogue and with nature and that especially expressed itself in my interest with the traditional arts especially the Chinese Internal arts and Indian arts like yoga.

For me like this inner resilience would be in this question of dialogue.

Dialogue is listening but it’s not only listening with your ears it’s listening with your heart. And even more than that is listening with your soul.

We can experience that in our very, very day to day experience it’s just like taking some time not starting to speak immediately taking five minutes or 10 minutes just to harmonize, before doing something.

Just letting the mind settle, being rooted in a certain way.

Sometimes people don’t want to do it, they say they don’t have time to do it, but actually just this sitting quietly, calmly, in a certain way completely changes the whole atmosphere.

And if you do it, you would find that people are much, much, more open to real dialogues, to listening to each other, to really sharing their experiences, than if you do it without that quiet time at the beginning.

So, you start to dialogue with another human being. Really dialogue, in the sense that you really wanted to listen to that person, and you, you let yourself be challenged, by maybe the world view that he presents or the sensitivity that he’s expressing.

While it may on the one hand be enriching, but sometimes it may be very shocking. You know. We, we may not really want to hear certain things, or we do not really hear certain things until we have heard them back a hundred times and then suddenly you’re like “Oh wow. There was something deeper than I thought.”

So when this happens it’s, it’s a kind of a challenge, also, some that leads to a second kind of dialogue which is the dialogue with which I call with ‘oneself;’ you start to become aware of what our, let’s call it invisible horizon of action and living things.

And for that actually we need the dialogue with others, because otherwise we can never become aware of our own personal window. And then when you start to deepen this dialogue with others and yourself by listening more to yourself. You also start to realize that actually you are connected to the nature all around you.

That in a certain way, once the sensitivity to listening has been opened up, well, you start to listen to the trees to the sun then the flowers to the to the clouds, in a certain way they talk to you.

If you want to listen, first you have to empty yourself, and then everything come and talks to you. The dialogical aspect of nature which starts to unfold. So, it’s a dialogue with oneself, with the others with the nature. And then there’s this other dimension which I call like beyond, whatever you want to call it, you know, these things which are beyond words and you cannot really express it, but which is also there.

Sometimes, when we talk about inner, we kind of separated or distinguish it from outer. For me, I would rather say that the experience of also entering in yourself, or entering in dialogue with nature or with the beyond, is more a process of creating links, where there was more links you may have had an idea of a feeling of separation, you know, you’re feeling separate from the others, and you’re feeling separate from nature.

Nature is more objects which are outside; the second world of objects. It’s not living reality.

Even some people… who just see them like objects and some robots which there, which behave in a certain way, but they’re not really persons that we interact with.

And the same thing with ourselves, and we may even ourselves not really…. We do our work. We do our things when our routines. But are we really considering ourselves as another living subject, as such.

There’s four dimensions —and you can start from any of these dimensions.

If you’re somebody who has been growing up in a very natural surrounding, maybe your first dialogue starts with nature. Some people they’re shepherds and they spend lots of time alone for months in the mountains. So probably for them the first kind of dialogue which would start is more like a dialogue with nature, and then the dialogues may come.

For people like me and more like a city person. And so, it’s more confronted with people at the beginning, you know. But the important point is to say that for me all these dimensions are always there. At the moment when we start to open one of these dimensions, dialogue of one of these dimensions, little by little we start to realize how everything is much, much, much more linked together than we ever expected.

It’s not just it’s always easy to go someone see what they don’t have is they don’t have that they don’t have that they don’t have that, and just construct them like the inferior version of yourself, but they can do the same thing, because from their point of view, you don’t have this and don’t have that and don’t have that and so on.

Wouldn’t it be more interesting, instead of trying to fill the other with your own projections, and your own ideas, to just listen, open up and then maybe discover all the plenitude the ‘other’ is. I just started to realize that our lives generally speaking sometimes very often a void to be filled.

You know, we, feel that we have to have a certain social status and we feel that we have to on a psychological level we want to achieve certain things and economical level, which is wonderful, as long as it is not something we just do because we need to fill our lives, and at the moment that we dare to maybe step back a little we may just find out that life is actually very rich and well these things may be happening without us trying to push too hard.

Plenitude means you start to realize all the relationships that you, you are knotting together, through your being.

Just like you have a physical body, considering like a modern western science, we are actually really children of the stars. I mean that is …all the elements that we made of are made in the stars, so we have actually a relationship with them.

So, we have this physiological level, but then we have our emotions, we have our feelings, we have our thoughts; in all these different dimensions are all interlinked. By the contemplation of outside nature, which we perceive as being outside, we actually establish a relationship, one which on the outside level may lead us to this feeling that we that we should not care for the environment because it’s our duty, but because of its beauty. And so, we establish that relationship with the outside nature.

But at the same time, contemplating the outside nature also actually refers us back to our inside nature. You can use the term ecological, but I would just say our, inner nature. What life is about. (laugh)

You are part of nature.

When I say nature, you know there’s nature, and nature there’s the visible nature that we see. And then there’s nature in the sense of let’s call what is the whole planet. And the solar system and the galaxies, and now they are talking about multiverses — all this is part of this other broader concept.

It really links, creating links where we didn’t see links, links where there was separation, little by little to see that things are so much linked, which is very important in the ecological thinking, you start to enter into this more holistic approaches to things because you realize you cannot just cut things into pieces, they’re always related and whenever you change something, someone always has an effect on the whole.

If you start practicing any Qi Gong, if you start practicing any movement, which you will do with the relaxed body, tasting what you’re doing, maybe doing it slowly, and doing it with awareness. Little by little what you will start to feel is what the Chinese often call Qi which is energy.

Again which is experiential, the one feeling that you may have at the beginning, is you will feel some tingling in the fingers or you may feel some warmth that will come, and then if you continue at some point you may feel it more inside, kind of a magnetic feeling. Sometimes you get somewhat like electric feel to it, just the quiet sitting and watching your breath…. Actually, even if you just do this but like you do it every day, and you do it for a couple of hours every day, and so on and so on– at the beginning you are very much in the psychological state. You’re just thinking of this and thinking of that.

And then at the moment, when these things start to settle a little –you like a glass, water and mixed and then it settles and becomes more clear and more transparent. When that stage starts to happen, things start to circulate in your body, that’s like basically what is the whole Qi.

These things are very real.

Christoph at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature, India.

So that brings me to the reaction to the experience. The culture we live in, now I’m talking well, city culture, you know like a technological society. It blunts us to a lot of our experiences.

If you live in nature, and you have to live to survive in with nature. Your senses are much much more refined than the kind of senses that we may have like you know living in the cities. So in a certain way we again we colonised our minds and even now I still realise how much my mind is colonised

Very, very, big learning process also…..because you start to realize I do have an innate intelligence, my body does understand certain things, OK. You have to put the awareness. It’s not that you don’t have to do anything. You have to put the awareness. You have to try to listen. You have to practice. It’s not just coming like if you don’t do anything. And once you know little by little to learn, to make the difference between what is your illusions, and your and what things are real, in those what you feel.

We are not gods, we are not the masters of nature, or the kings of nature, no we are just a part of it, a very humble tiny part it.

Humility, the importance of humility.

You recognize yourself as a wonder of the universe. It’s amazing. And the more humble you become, in a certain way, the more beautiful the whole thing becomes.

CREDITS

Tanya’s Voice:

Thank you for listening!

Nordic by Nature Podcast is an ImaginaryLife.net production created with the support of the Nordic Ministries Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast. Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

If you are interested in Mindfulness and Resilient Thinking, please read about Ajay Rastogi’s village homestay retreats on foundnature.org, and follow the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature on Facebook, and Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

Noor A Noor worked for Nature Conservation Egypt. Please see  www.natureegypt.org. You can follow Noor on Twitter, @Nxoor.

You can follow Judith Schleicher on twitter @j_schleicher (spell it out). You can find Christoph Eberhard’s through his youtube channel, Dialogues for Change or Twitter, @PeaceDialogues.

Sound designed by Diego Losa. See diegolosa.blogspot.com

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Nordic By Nature Publishing

Nordic By Nature started as a podcast of 11 episodes, inspired by Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher who coined the term ‘deep ecology’. Our interviewees were not chosen to represent society at large, but rather because of their ability to follow their own inner voice. All of our guests have repeatedly set aside opportunities for material gain to pursue their own lifelong journey of transformation.

The podcast transcripts are being turned into a book based on the 26 recorded interviews. The title of the book is: Nordic by nature. New voices on deep ecology; Arne Naess in the 21st century. The book is also being translated into Spanish by the publishing house Planeta Sostenible.

The project has created a network of environmental experts and a platform for future co-creation, editing and publishing of globally relevant content on Ecology Today.

Become a Patron!

Each episode of Nordic By Nature’s audio podcast is a spacious, mindful soundscape presenting the voices from around the globe, created for you to listen with your headphones. Deep listening for deep ecology.

Episode 1: ON ACTIVISM

This first podcast episode ON ACTIVISM, presents the inspiring voices of peace activist Satish Kumar, Marijn Van de Geer from Extinction Rebellion, and Siti Kasim, human rights lawyer passionate about Orang Asli, the indigenous people in the Malaysian peninsula.

Episode 2: ON SURVIVAL

The second episode, ON SURVIVAL, presents the voices of culinary curator Monika Kucia, who runs a farmer’s & producers’ and hosts cultural food events in Warsaw, Poland, design leader and educator Daniel Wahl, whose book Designing Regenerative Cultures is must for anyone interested in transformative innovation and Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures, a seminal work that compares the way of life in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, before and after globalisation.

Episode 2 Simple landing page: https://share.transistor.fm/s/39486f1f

Direct download of Episode 2 mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/5fdc83be.mp3

Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE

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.

Episode 4: ON TRANSFORMATION

Episode 4 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.

Episode 5: ON HAPPINESS

The fifth episode of Nordic By Nature, On Happiness, presents two guests who have dedicated their careers to understanding the relationship of values to our behaviour, sense of wellbeing and impact on the wider world.

First, we hear Tim Kasser, currently a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, USA. He has authored over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on materialism, values, goals, well-being, and environmental sustainability, among other topics. In 2018, he collaborated with the cartoonist Larry Gonick to create HyperCapitalism: The modern economy, its values, and how to change them.
Then we hear Dasho Dr. Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies located in Bhutan’s capital city, Thimphu. The Centre has a mandate to research Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Culture and History of Bhutan, and policy related studies.

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Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/862d207c.mp3

Episode 6: ON BELONGING

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In the sixth episode of Nordic By Nature, On Belonging, we meet three people who have thought a lot about what ‘home’ means to them and how that relates defines their relationship to a place. All were present at Standing Rock.

First you hear the words of Andrew and Kayla Blanchflower, tipi dwellers and makers whose way of the life can be an inspiration to all of us to live lighter. Andrew and Kayla met and fell in love in Oregon in the States and decided to raise their family ‘off the grid’ with a closer contact to the earth and Mother Nature.

You will then hear Yvette Neshi Lokotz teacher of hand drumming and practitioner of the Medicine Wheel or Sacred Hoop healing, and tribal member of the Potawatomi Nation.

Episode 7: ON ETHICS

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

Dr. John and Ajay are leading students on an experiential Mountain Resilience Course, that is part of a longer term Sister Cities program between Gunnison and Majkhali India, with the aim to share climate change solutions between the two ‘Mountain Headwaters Communities.’

Dr. John an environmental philosopher and writer whose has written a number of books that look at the intersection of environmental ethics and social justice including “Catlin’s Lament”; Wildness and his upcoming book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be?
Both Ajay and Dr John are part of an ever-growing movement that calls for a new ethic, one that views all places as part of our home, all generations of all beings as part of our scope of responsibility, and all actions as potential expressions of human care for the world.

Episode 8: ON KNOWLEDGE

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https://media.transistor.fm/51b3346c.mp3

This episode, ON KNOWLEDGE, features two guests who have dedicated their life’s work to enabling marginalised communities protect their own resilience, whilst net-working and lobbying for policy changes around the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods, and integrating People’s knowledge into bioregional development.But first you will hear a few words from my colleague Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. Ajay works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttrakahand, India. He set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as foreign visitors and homestay guests interested in more meaningful forms of sustainability.

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

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

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

Episode 9: ON ART

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In this episode, ON ART you hear a few words Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature introducing the voices of two Norwegian artists, Catrine Gangstø and Laila Kolostyák. Catrine and Laila are committed to using ART as a meeting point for engaging the local community in thinking about equity, identity and our inner and outer natural worlds.

Ajay Rastogi works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand, India, where making art is an intrinsic part of everyday life. Ajay set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as visitors and homestay guests interested in learning about more meaningful forms of sustainability.

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

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

Episode 10: ON CONNECTED VOICES

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In this episode ON CONNECTED VOICES, you will hear from two guests prominent in the world of internet access and freedom of speech. First you will hear from Walid Al Saqaf, free speech advocate and software developer who focusses on the non-commercial use of Internet and its impact on democracy and freedom of speech. After Walid, you will hear from Bahraini civil rights activist, and blogger Esra’a Al Shafei founder of Majal.org, a network of digital platforms that amplify underrepresented voices in the Middle East and North Africa. The World Economic Forum listed Esra’a as one of 15 Women Changing the World, and she was featured in Forbes magazine’s 30Under30 list of social entrepreneurs making an impact in the world.

Walid founded a ground-breaking news aggregation service in his home country of Yemen, which spurred him onto work with tracking Internet censorship and enabling activists and journalists to bypass government-imposed firewalls to access news and social media websites. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC) and co-founder of the Society’s Blockchain Special Interest Group. His work in tech development for increasing Internet Access has earned him international recognition, including a TED senior fellowship, and Örebro University’s Democracy Award, and he has been featured by global media such as CNN, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post.

Esra’a is passionate about music as a means for social change, and is also the founder of MideastTunes, where musicians across the world with Middle Eastern and North African origin can share their music that is often censored on mainstream music platforms. She also a senior TEDFellow, and Echoing Green fellow. As an outspoken defender of free speech, Esra’a was FastCompany magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business and The Daily Beast one of the 17 bravest bloggers worldwide.

The music you hear with Esra’s is by Tam Tam, the Saudi born pop star who sings about solidarity and equity.

Episode 11: ON NARRATIVES

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Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/b994ac43.mp3

In this episode ON NARRATIVES, we hear from four people working to shape more constructive narratives of our relationship to nature in order to increase environmental protection; First, we hear from Tom Crompton, founder of the Common Cause Foundation in the U.K., then, Paul Allen from the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales, followed by Yuan Pan at Cambridge University and finally Rewilding expert Paul Jepson.

Tom Crompton’s research into values shows that the dominant narrative of the selfishness of humankind is deeply flawed.

Paul Allen presents a positive and attainable vision of the future, where technology creates smart, localised and integrated infrastructures that help us humans live in harmony with the planet for centuries to come.

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

Finally, we hear from Paul Jepson who is also active in science communication, particularly in the area of biodiversity, science-policy interfaces and new media. In 2016, Paul published an agenda for European Rewilding and conducted research with Frans Schepers on creating policies for Rewilding within European Commissioned nature institutions. Paul currently works for the consultancy ecosulis.

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Nordic by Nature Podcast is an Imaginary Life AB production launched 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 us on nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

We are also on Patreon if you would like to support us with a donation to keep this podcast going into a second series! See www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

Become a Patron!

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 Podcast – Out now!



Direct Link to Transistor: https://share.transistor.fm/s/51f13fa5

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.

XR logo
The Extinction Rebellion Logo – a call for radical action.

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,

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Episode 2: ON SURVIVAL

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Daniel Christian Wahl

Monika Kucia

Helena Norberg-Hodge

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

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Episode 3: ON INNER RESILIENCE

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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.

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: nordicbynature@imaginarylife.net 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

Nordic By Nature Ep 1: ON ACTIVISM Transcript

Please listen to our podcast here.

SOUND: SWEDEN GARDEN SUMMER

Tanya:

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

Tanya:

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

Tanya:

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 Mountain Resilience.

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

Ajay:
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.

Tanya:

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.

Just start.

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.

The First Episode, ON ACTIVISM, features Peace Activist Satish Kumar.

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

SATISH:

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

SATISH:

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

XR logo is based on an hourglass timer. Time is running out.

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.

MARIJN VAN DE GEER

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

SITI KASIM:

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.

Siti Kasim

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.

Siti Kasim

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?

SOUND: MORNING CICADAS

 

Siti Kasim

 

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

CREDITS

SOUND: SWEDEN SUMMER SOUNDS

TANYA:

Thank you for listening to our first episode! Nordic by Nature 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

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.

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

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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/.