Transcript to the Nordic By Nature Podcast, ON NARRATIVES
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SOUND BRIDGE TO LAILA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
DIEGO SOUND: TANYA SUMMER GARDEN
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.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.