Category Archives: Nature Conservation

A cluster of thoughts on nature conservation because I studied it and because it is important

Why onmipresent consciousness isn’t that unlikely

If you think about it rationally, there is no reason why consciousness should reside within the brain and cannot be outside of it. Surely, numerous neuroscientists would instantly prove me wrong here, but they have two main problems. 1: like myself, they look upon this question from a limited perspective, that is, from within the limitations of their own thoughts, projections and perceptions and 2: they search for consciousness within the human brain, assuming they’ll encounter it. Of course they will. Yet that won’t exclude its presence outside of it. And that’s not their expertise.

Now, we say that if we sleep, and I mean dreamless sleep, we are unconscious. But is it possible that we think exactly the opposite while we’re asleep? That during sleep, we perceive the waking state as the unconscious state? That we simply forget about everything we lived during daytime? Or worse: that we do remember it, but from our different state of mind, perceive it as nothing? Just like being asleep appears as ceasing to exist when we’re awake? Could there be a different world where our body lies inside a bed while we are awake here? If there was, how would we know?

A dense network with a filter
Consider the scientific status quo on how the brain looks. It’s an enormously dense network of cells with micro-telephone cables, including numerous interconnected regions where basic functions support more complex ones. The system is kept active by constant influx of oxygen and other building blocks, and outflow of waste materials. And where is consciousness? According to neuroscientists, it exists as a result of the continuous interchange of electric signals of the brain. The theory seems somehow similar as magnetism emerging from an electromagnetic coil with electricity going through. But one of the mayor neurscientific theories is that a filter is responsible for our higher awareness. That’s the mechanism which selects a fraction of the signals reaching us through our senses. By that, it turns our perception, our consciousness, into something we can grasp.

This premise fails to acknowledge that by defining consciousness as the filter that makes the world understandable, you say that the way humans are perceiving the world during their wakeful state  is the one and only ‘conscious’ way. Some bypass that problem by calling it ‘higher consciousness’. While I acknowledge the presence of such a filter, I challenge the view of calling it ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ by asking: how would the world look without it? Isn’t it likely that our consciousness is just ‘a state of consciousness’?

Neurologists say it is hard, perhaps impossible to find a structure in nature as intricate as the human brain. That it has gone through aeons of evolution. They are right. The way they are right, however, falls entirely within the timescale and the spatial scale in which that very brain perceives. We have evolved a style of perceiving that has made our own style of perceiving look like the ultimate style of perceiving by confining itself to a selection of it all. And we need this limited consciousness to keep ourselves organized and by that protect it from going extinct. Smart fellas we are.

I’d posit that this filter forges our egos, but not so much the fact that we’re conscious. The signals in our brains, the clouds of electricity that run from one part to the other and back, may not be structured in the same way outside of our heads, but they are just as present everywhere else.

What else could be conscious?
A tree that stands with its roots in the ground, branching into the sky, constantly exchanges signals, transferring charged matter from above to below and back. Its roots as well as its branches touch those of other plants. As much as the cells in our brains and bodies, these plants and other organisms need to constantly exchange with each other to survive. Is it truly unlikely that out from this continuous buzz rises some kind of awareness?

A galaxy, constantly revolving, has bricks and pieces bumping against each other. Each of the stars continuously radiates all kinds of wavelengths in the direction of its fellow stars. Could it not be that out of that motion spins a thought now and then, so big and so slow that we will never even notice it?

Is it not likely that each species has its own filter, is its own filter of reality? Ants constantly gather substances from around the nest, transporting them to the core. They process them there, then bring them back outside. Meanwhile, the inside of the nests is a cacophony of smell and touch, all eventually leading back to that one queen. We know the chemicals are there, we know the pathways of the ants, but we don’t know how it is to live inside. Could that queen be communicating with other queens via the ants in her nest? In the same way as words stand between human communicators?

Or how about cities? Is it not possible that Amsterdam, existing for over 700 years, has learned? Could it be that all beings inside it compose something bigger? Something that chitchats with Paris and London? How can we be certain that it does not, when we send airplanes, cars, boats and electricity up and down every day? Could we say the same for businesses and other organizations, which, in their way create a filter by bringing the same people together day in, day out?

How complex should structure be in order to give birth to awareness?

Dreamers
I personally find the presence of consciousness in every bit of matter and energy more than likely. I’m fascinated by the idea of ‘dreamers’. That we are all just dreaming our way into reality. That there are dreamers dreaming the sun and the moon, others dreaming wasps, chairs, the cosmos and the atoms. That none of these dreamers are truly isolated or alone, but rather clouds of consciousness, reaching into one another. Sometimes aware of their connection, other times not. That consciousness is not just us, but a sea of dreamers, stretching out in all directions and dimensions. In that view, those who dream our fates would be our gods, and we would be the gods of those whose fates we dream.

 

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How to survive a Vegan Challenge

Did you take a look at the picture? Suppose that didn’t make it easier? Hope you weren’t hungry. Otherwise, just remind yourself of how unhealthy hamburgers are. Or just go buy one. Anyhow, if you’re doing a vegan challenge or plan to do one, here’s how to survive it.

Don’t do the challenge between Carnival and Easter
Jesus did a 40 day ‘no-food or drinks challenge in the desert’, right? And that’s what Christians relive between Carnival and Easter, so there should be 40 days between Carnival and Easter, right? Wrong. It turns out that Christians can take a break from their fasting every sunday, and since there are 6 sundays between carnival and easter, doing your challenge during that period makes it a 46 day challenge. That means Christians are pussies if you compare them to, for example, Muslims. Or to me. Also: February is the most depressing month and omitting cheese and meat from your diet at that moment makes it even worse. So if you’re a diehard, do it, otherwise pick 30 or 40 days during another period of the year. Summer, for example, when you can live on light.

Eat bird food
If you don’t eat the actual birds, do make sure you eat their food, or you’ll run out of content. Chia seeds, wolfberries and hempseeds are some very good examples of bird foods that appear to be quite nutritious. The best way to eat them is in yoghurt. Not real yoghurt of course, that’s made from milk. You can buy or make soy yoghurt. Do leave some seeds for the birds, or you convert their quick and painless death into an everlasting time of agony and starvation. But you probably will, leave them some, because they’re not particularly nice. Except if you add honey. Then they taste like honey. And don’t even start on how honey is unvegan.

Soy up
I visited a vegan foodplace for the occasion. Want to know what I saw in the kitchen? Pallets full of soymilk. I swear. Okay one pallet full, but still, there was a tower of packages on it. Whether it’s the vegan hamburgers, the carrot cake or the cappuccino, everything has soy in it. So you’d better get used to soy if you’re going for the challenge. Or start a mungbean juice revolution. Seriously.

Swich to supplements
Going vegan, I ran out of fuel quite quickly, and my uncle still had one of those baskets of protein supplements made of, you guessed it, soy. That helped. Later I ran out of fuel again, and my mom happened to have some B-12 pills. That helped too. Of course I don’t know if they were placebos, but they gave me courage, and will do the same for you. So go ahead and back yourself up. Nobody said you had to hurt yourself.

Don’t go to Spain
Here’s what you’ll miss. Calamares. Fuet. Tortilla con Patatas. Jamon Iberico, Boquerones. Patatas bravas. Empanadas. Lomo saltado. Chorizo. Horchata. Paella. Any tapas. Sepia. Pannekoekens by your cousin (don’t ask). Chocolate mousse. Bacalao.

Be creative
Since I’m the type of person who wants to find out everything for himself, I wasn’t inclined to visit any blogs of foodies or the instagram pictures of yoga girls, and instead did a few inventions. I would highly advise you to do the same, because this is how you truly break your own behavioural patterns and bring some care back into the kitchen (which, I believe, is the real reason why people are vegan). If you want to ignore that advise and would rather be told what to do, here’s what you should do: 1) make a mustard based dressing and add it to your pizza and all other dishes. 2) eat sorbet. 3) steam onion to the core, and eat it on proper bread with some oil, salt and pepper. 4) deep fry tofu. 5) use indian curries, but check the E-numbers. 6) make soy yoghurt for your bird food and steamed onions. 7) did I ever mention broccoli? Eat broccoli. 8) use Saffron for bouillon in your stew.

Don’t eat mushrooms
They’re basically water in a coat. Okay, eat them for the taste or if you want to hallucinate for that matter, but don’t expect anything else back. Eat nuts instead. Or go nuts. Your choice. Oh by the way, this also applies to celery.

Look forward to the compliments
Indeed, if you present your non-meat-or-diary diet to your friends as a vegan challenge, which is recommendable because it is the decisive argument to end them from bothering you with their paradoxical morales, they will appreciate your heroïsm. They will even congratulate you with it when you’re done. And that’s what you do it for, is it not? Precizely. Live towards it.

Vegan Challenge

For the coming fourty days, I will eat and drink solely plant-based foods and drinks. I will succeed, except perhaps for a few mistakes out of ignorance (though I just took screenshots of a list of vegan E-numbers, and intend to verify them). It’s not my intention to permanently switch to a vegan or even a vegetarian diet. I don’t consider that necessary, but I do think doing such a challenge is a good idea for everyone. Since it is a topic of discussion these days, let me briefly give my views on some of the arguments.

Eating vegan is the more natural thing to do
Some vegans claim that eating vegan is a natural thing to do. They support this statement by pointing out some of our physiological adaptations to green food, such as our molars to chew, our long intestines to digest greens and our not so acidic stomach. These are supposedly signs that evolution adapted us to a fully vegan diet. For now, all I’d like to contest against this doctrine is ‘Vitamin B12’. That vitamin is vital to our nervous system, but can be found solely in animal products, in some very exceptional algae and in food supplements. The fact that humans would get serious problems (such as blindness) if we don’t regularly ingest B12 pretty much settles the argument for me. And I find the ‘natural’ argument a bit scary in fact. As if ‘cultural’ would be wrong. Depending on your definition, we humans have moved far beyond the ‘natural’. I don’t see that as morally wrong as long as we stay respectful, and I do not support such doctrines.

Eating vegan is healthier
Here’s an argument I haven’t researched that much. So far, I have lived by the principle that my body knows perfectly well what is good for it and what is not. Now that I’m thirty, I do admit that this outlook may be a little naive, since I would supposedly not yet notice the potential long-term damage I did to it in my early years. Yet following my appetite, I noticed that my food choice becomes heavier in winter, containing more meat, and more vegetable-based in summer, when I need less energy and fat to keep my body heated. I consider that a good sign. Of course, I cannot be sure if that is a mental of physical thing. Probably a combination.

Essentially, health is a complex thing. What is healthy for your brain, may be unhealthy for your heart, and what is good for your kidneys may be less good for your eyes or your nervous system. Food scientists discover new impacts of foods every day. Hence, next to following my taste, I have always tried to adopt a balanced diet and eating a bit of everything.

To stay within the discourse on health and veganism, some people use the argument that vegans get sick as soon as they eat a bit of meat. I wouldn’t deny that they get sick, but would look for the explanation in the switch of diet, rather than blaming the actual meat or dairy. And many people have allergies, intolerances or other medical conditions which would fully legitimize certain diet choices. Problems I don’t have, luckily. In the end, I’d say that avoiding illness requires a broader outlook. We should stimulate our capacity to continuously heal ourselves, which in my view is about untightening.

Vegan consumption reduces animal suffering
I’m all for the decrease of animal suffering. Whether an animal suffers or not, depends on how it is treated. Not eating meat at all means turning your back on meat farmers. Buying organic meat of the kind that focusses on animal welfare, on the other hand, stimulates a better practice. It could indirectly stimulate change in the standards of animal treatment in general. Thus using market forces, buying organic meat could decrease animal suffering in a way that eating no meat can’t. Let’s not forget also, that many of the animals we’re talking about would never have existed without us. Provided they enjoy existence, breeding animals could be a good thing. I would say that this conversation should be more about respectful animal treatment than about eating or not eating them.

Killing animals is wrong
I’m not happy that we have to kill other beings to survive, but that’s the bitter truth. Vegans, vegetarians and many others make a sharp distinction between plants and animals. Now, I agree that there are differences between the groups, but there also are plenty of things about plants we do not yet understand. And if there’s one thing in which plants do not differ from animals, it’s in the meaning of death. We are talking about the difference between being held together by life, and falling apart. I don’t see how plants and animals differ under that light. I believe that feeling the life flow out of you is a deeply relaxing experience to all creatures alike.

Vegans’ environmental impacts are lower
I find this the strongest argument against eating animal products (or for the reduction of it). Every step up the food pyramid costs ten times the amount of food and drinks as the previous step did. In other words: it takes 10 kg of grass to create 1 kg of cow, and 100 kg of grass to create 1 kg of human that fed solely on cows, while it would take 10 kg of vegetables. Keeping our position in the food pyramid low will inevitably reduce our impact on the global environment.

There is something unfair about this calculation, however, that I do want to stress. Grass can become new fertilizer. None of the ingested substances truly disappears. All of it will be given back to the atmosphere, the water and the land. The power of the global ecosystem has always been to keep the cycle intact. But: we humans have disrupted the balance, to a point where ecosystems are incapable of dealing with all of our waste. We could, theoretically, compensate for that ourselves and create new cycles that are more adapted to our taste for meat. However, we are far from having created such new cycles at the moment, and many of the valuable nutrients for our food are disappearing into the oceans. Hence it would be better for now to decrease our meat ingestion. Yet in this discussion, we should not forget that many plant products such as coffee, chocolate and plant-based oils have similar impacts on the global nutrient cycles as meat does.

Still taking the challenge
So, if I’m not against consumption of animal products per se, why still take this challenge? Well, first of all, not being anti doesn’t make you pro. I like meat, and not being discriminatory against it is by far the easiest way to go. Reducing my consumption of it is nonetheless still a good idea. Besides, I am not fond of habits that have taken control over me. I take yearly month-long brakes from coffee and alcohol, and I decided to do that with animal-based products as well at least this year. By doing so, I force myself to explore different behavioural patterns, and I expect that my outlook on food will expand. I suppose I’ll have a bigger palette of habits and dishes at my disposal after this period, which will decrease my animal-based consumption without me noticing.

I’m by far not the first of my friends to do something like this. Many have gone before, and I suppose that seeing them do it triggered it in me as well. But this is my choice, and I’m quite sure I will face some small conflicts with myself and society. For a short while, I will look into the faces of the pro-meat camp with the eyes of an anti. That may well turn out to be an interesting experience in itself. I do think I come equipped to disarm potential opponents.

Marrying words

It just dawned on me that words, in fact, are an experience. Rewind? Okay.

I am adjusting a scientific article on spiritual experiences in nature. One of the central problems is the definition of the word ‘spiritual’. It has so many meanings! It all depends on who describes it. Some authors have the courage to define it as something ‘non dual’. They say that within a spiritual experience, there is no connection between a person and God, because there is no distinction between them.

One can dismiss those words as elitary blah blah, but whoever does that ignores the fact that every word manifests itself as an experience to the one who uses it. He denies the experience of another. It is the same with words such as God or Allah. The user experiences them and they are therefore meaningful.

This is an essential insight for a frequent writer such as myself. It might be one of my core drives. Writing, for me is about letting go, about enjoying the ride. It’s about discovering my relationship to the words, separately and combined. And I invite you as a reader to do the same.

So how did I get entangled in this quest to pin down ‘spirituality’ as a truth seeker? It seems paradoxical to look for objectivity in a place where the topic cannot exist without the lived, personal world. But it’s a beautiful paradox, because the role of the truth seeker brings me to a new experience of the word ‘spiritual’. As a scientist, you have to believe that words have a certain objective meaning in order to create a valid story. Even if only temporary, you have to believe in order to be believed. In that sense, science is not more than a theatrical act, an impersonation of ‘the objective’. And by impersonating the objective, we get into a closer relationship with the word ‘objective’. A word that cannot exist outside of our experience of it.

The relation we ultimately have to our words defines our communication. The more we cling to the word, the more intimately we experience it and the harder we are willing to fight for it. It makes sense, because the way in which we experience our words makes us who we are.

Biodiversinesque

I enjoy making up new words. It’s an exploration of realms of meaning. A good new word is new territory accessible for other people too. I also like it when other people invent words. That’s why I’ll discuss Maria E. Ignatieva’s ‘Biodivesinesque’, to bring some light into this ‘blue monday’, as a marketeer once called it.

Ignatieva is a European (more or less) landscape architect focussing on urban ecology and design. In several articles, she notes that in the previous two centuries, two main styles have inaugurated globalized urban landscape design, meaning these styles were introduced in colonial territories. The first one was ‘picturesque’, a natural style in which parks look like deforested Western European landscapes, containing elements such as meandering roads and irregular terrains. Open grasslands are an iconic aspect of this style. The second one was ‘gardenesque’. This is a far more high maintenance, regular yet artistic way of designing landscapes, using a variety of exotic plant species and neatly cut hedges to convey a sense of human triumph over nature.

Biodiversinesque goes beyond both styles by integrating deeper understanding of the behaviour of natural environments into the design. The designer lets go of the imperative to imprint a thought upon the landscape. Instead, she or he shows appreciation for nature by taking vital characteristics such as ground water, local species and weather fluctuations into account during the design process. When working with nature, instead of over its back, areas have the potential to become far more biodiverse. This style allows for dynamics in vegetation patterns, since surprises are appreciated instead of being seen as messy and a lack of park management. Through biodiversinesque design, landscape architects can convey the beauty of ecological processes to the visitors of a park, while blending the urban landscape into the natural surroundings.

Reconnecting the urban ecosystem with the surrounding ones, a process that is advancing steadily in Europe, is a way to invite traditional flora and fauna back into the lives of city dwellers that may have forgotten about them. It is a public acknowledgement of the fact that not interfering can sometimes lead to better results than doing something. With her presence, nature gives us soft, subconscious education. By allowing nature back into our lives, we peacefully become it. All we essentially have to do is give it some space.

Becoming a collective

The World Parks Congress ended about three days ago. No more running around on the lookout for people to interview. Team buddies Lilian and Johannes left straightaway; back to Bonn and Beijing. Tom´s road parted from mine in Bombaderry:  gotta love the Aussie village names. I am now writing in the train from Kiala to Sydney. The melancholy in my heart helps me perceive the soothing charge of the rocky, wild beachscape passing by outside.

The video we made with the YPMC was received with a standing ovation induced by Daniela, who presented it. It was made as a voice for our generation of environmentalists. It starts with “we are a collective”. That means that we´re a community, a network of young brothers and sisters, dispersed all over the world. It believe it is true: indeed we are a collective, indeed, we act for nature, but more importantly: this is only a start for collective action. Or it can be.

One of the main questions heard at such congresses is: “what do you do?” It is perhaps because of the way they are set up, the way they are funded and the contemporary imperative of presenting yourself in a pitch. People get paid to praise themselves. It has been like this for the young people as well. It has weakened us. A better question to ask would be: “what shall we do?”

Some of the things that the young people currently seem to do well are: getting other young people outside with a no walls campaign, stimulating the outreach of a rapper on nature and educating children on the importance of nature. They are important initiatives, but the world needs more than that. We need strong, well enforced laws that answer nature´s cry for help, we need massive divestment from fossil fuels into sustainable energies. We need well-being, not money, to be central in our decision-making. We simply need massive global reforms.

After some good talks with Tom on the road, I´d like to propose something to all young ‘changemakers’ who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week. Those who identify with the term ´leaders of the future´. We´ve all been involved in empowering communities. We know the tricks to helping them have a voice. Yet where we failed so far, is where we forgot to apply this expertise to ourselves as a group. The real collective may have been presented to the congress, but it is not yet there.

We are probably the only group of young people who are this close to the big conservationist decisions ahead. Probably among the young ones with the biggest potential to make the big changes. We know each other, and we have each others trust. We have support from our elders. We have well-established networks, though we lack the overview. Let´s change the nature of our presence at these congresses, and indeed ´lead by example´. Let´s shift the motivation of our visit to co-creating something that has impact. Raise funds for that. The next time we visit a congress, perhaps Hawaii, let´s take time to represent not ourselves to each other, but our community to the world. Let´s work towards coherence and infect the crowd with it. Use our joint presence to create something we think is important.

To reach this, I think it´s crucial that we all stay in close touch on the longer term. Build a closed digital platform, meet up. Share our expertise to build a collective CV. Let´s listen to each others opinions, gain insight in our common strengths and weaknesses. Dreams and worries. Discover our real potential. Without drifting away. We commit to this, remember?

The first question is easy: what can I contribute and how much time do I want to spend on it? The rest will follow. We could map our networks, find out what we lack. Look for leverage for change. Together we can create something that really is bigger than us. Acting local has been great, but let´s bring this to a bigger level. Let´s become the collective and act globally.

Calming Volcanoes

Rainbow Thunderheart or Bavado LeBeau is a Native American shaman from Wyoming, concerned with the healing of mother earth. He is part of the bird tribes and sound healers. His ancestors have asked him to teach the people of the world about the laws of nature. He has travelled to 28 American tribes to get to know them. His teachers educated him on how to maintain a good relationship with nature and its spiritual entities. He now acts as spiritual guardian of the Yellowstone Park and has travelled to the Netherlands to give teachings on his work. I have asked him for an interview and he agreed.
(Picture: Aljaz Gabersek)

College
Lian organises the session; it comes with several landscape healing rituals and a sweat lodge ceremony. She invited me to join diner. It’s hectic when I meet Bennie, right before we eat. He’s in blue with nice ornaments. Gentle, to the point. Diner is vegan, made of rice and local flowers. Before we eat, we hold our hands above the food to get rid of the bad energy. I feel like making lots of inappropriate comments, but manage to keep most of them in, where they light up a little flame that makes me smile. The companions smile back. An airy young blond man on my right explains that he is from a far away galaxy, and that he always purifies his food this way. He gives me some tips on how I can do the same. I try. It seems to be a big deal for him.

The college room is full. When no more people enter, the group gradually becomes silent in expectancy, until we cannot even hear whispering. “I’m not going to talk yet” says Lian. The humming starts again.

Bavado gets the stage. He stands legs wide and his voice is peaceful but loud. After introducing himself, he sings a song that he calls a message of his culture. He blows on a whistle. The high-pitched sound, he explains, scatters the negative energies in our minds. It’s beautiful. In a long presentation, he sketches a paradigm that is for a part new to me. Some words I find hard to digest, with others I feel as though I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll give you a short personal summary.

Central in Bavado’s vision is grandmother spider’s web. This is a pattern similar to that of the seeds in a sunflower. It is spread all over the world and the intersections of the lines have sacred sites, to wich everything is spiritually connected. Bavado says that the problems are global and they therefore concern us all.

The large-scale mining and transportation of gold, oil and minerals of the past century has put the weight points of the earth’s tectonic plates out of balance, comparable to removing a piece of a spin and sticking it to the other side. Consequently, the earth spins into a new equilibrium, which causes tsunamis, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. This process has been predicted by tribes from all over the world, who learned this information from inhabitants of different star systems. Some of these legends were passed from parent to child; others were carved as drawings on stones. It was predicted, for example that when the White Buffalo returns, the nations will stand together as brothers and sisters to heal the earth. The process goes hand in hand with the coming of a generation of children who are born spiritually awake. Today, Bavado says, people from all over the world are having vision dreams about volcano eruptions and they have the chance to do something about it. The global reset is going to happen with or without us, but we have the potential to smoothen it a little.

Rainbow Thunderheart has himself once dreamt about a super eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. To prevent this, he has made a journey by 19 sacred natural sites surrounding Yellowstone in a wheel with a diameter of 1200 miles. On each of these sites, he taught volunteers how to engage in a healing ceremony with him. After he motivated all groups, they did a joint ceremony where every group was located on every sacred site to send their positive energy to the centre, the volcano itself, where he did his prayers. During this process, a hole opened in the ground that allowed steam to go out, relieving the pressure of the mountain. He says the ritual  also helped reduce the impacts of weather hazards in the area.

For the solutions, Bavado explains, it is important to understand that the elements, earth, wind, fire and water mimic our thoughts and our actions. Throughout the generations, atrocities such as rape and violence fell upon the heads of children. Parents had no control over it, the behaviour was embedded in the DNA. Today, we have the chance to heal this pain from our past. In this process we should be aware that we can not always sense the bad energy. We should therefore bless everything we take in: tap water, food, emotions, words, thoughts, you name it. In this process we should all have complete faith in love.

Someone in the public asks: what to do with the new forms of radiation such as Wifi or nuclear radiation? The answer for Bavado is simple: “I love the radiation, so I send my love to it. That is what shamans do. That is the essence of the power and it is true for everything: either you stop resisting, or you get ill.” Doubt can kill us.

Cleaning the thoughts
It is about ten O’clock at night when the presentation ends. We clean up and part ways. I go to the Lian’s house to meet Bavado for some questions. It is a walk through an alley with many trees. They calm my mind as I wonder how far I really go along in this. In the past years I have lived in the conviction that there is no such thing as bad energy, that it is all part of a huge energetic circle of life and death, but I sometimes felt this vision took the sting out of me. Bavado’s advice is to let go, that’s precizely what I stand for. But let go of what?

Part of the diner group is present in the living room where we have our chat. They are jolly, playful company. I ask Bavado how exactly he obtained his knowledge. He answers that it’s in the myths and the legends of his tribes. The way to understand it is to listen between the lines of the tales. “But if you listen to these tales, be careful with the thoughts that are already in your head, they may change the vision.” The basic teaching of the elders is that you should continuously put effort in keeping your thoughts clear and clean, just like you always have to clean up your house. A practical tip: replay your spoken words in your head. Look into them to see what you created.

I ask about the role of emotions. He says they are important. We are made out of twenty emotions, he explains, all ruled by the moon. Like the tides, there are higher emotions and lower ones. But we don’t usually notice our emotional cycles because we are distracted by the events in our lives. They’re easier to feel during sunrise. It is important to be with your emotions during prayer. Just like in a relationship: when you really love someone, you feel it in the words you speak. If you feel the love for the mother earth, she can hear you.

But what if you are divided between different thoughts or emotions? Then they work against each other and create a conflict. Bavado points his fingers to each other. A part of your energy can splinter off, leaving you more vulnerable for negative energies. It happens quite often in the case you follow a command of another person, and then blame that person for what you did. It does not work that way. You are the only one responsible for your actions.

Bavado distinguishes between different kinds of dreams. Some represent one of the four elements. If you get a dream like that, it tells you to go shape shift –impersonate – that element. Then there are vision dreams that give you a glimpse into the future. Bavado tells a most fascinating thing. Before he came into this life, he agreed to the events in it. Everything was shown to him like a movie in fast forward. He remembers being sent here to do what he is doing now.

So what are the most valuable lessons you learned from your elders? I ask to conclude. “Well, he says, once when I was young my girlfriend broke up with me. My grandma said: get over that girl, because there are plenty of fish in the sea. What she meant was that you should not get stuck onto things. My grandpa sat next to her. He said: that’s ill advice. If I would have taken it, you would now be alone”. He pauses for a while. “Yes and my grandpa also taught me to be gentle to girls when they are in their moon time. They could cause an earthquake five states wide…”

Economy

I enjoy looking up the origin of words in etymology dictionaries. Did you know that the word “mystic” comes from “secret”? And the origin of “sex” may have a relation to “seco”, meaning “cut in half”. Meanings of these words have shifted over the years. The same has happened with the word “economy”. It comes from “oikos”, house and “nomos”, management. How did house management turn into the imperative of growth of states, so closely associated with its modern definition? Can we blame the neighbour?

If we would transpose the original meaning of the word economy onto contemporary society, we would probably end up with a definition such as “global gardening”. After all, managing our highly advanced household nowadays means working to ways of sustainable use of our collective limited resources. It seems, though, that the human mind has trouble taking the concept of limited resources seriously. I think the reason for that is that we somehow fail to care for whatever we don’t feel belongs to us yet.

We are facing a problem that is hard to describe. In the 17th century, when economy received its state bound definition, western humans collectively stepped out of their limited, state bound existence and literally discovered that there is more behind the horizon. In my experience, the turn from heaving the attention on a limited, defined set of “own” surroundings towards an area of the “unknown” not only requires guts, but also a form of blindness. Whenever I leave my safe, managed territory, I enter a place where I don’t know the rules.

In that sense I totally get the way things currently are. We humans are constantly struggling with the “mine” versus “not mine” aspects of our lives. If it is in our control, in our familiar domain, we know the rules and probably accept them. If it is not, if it transcends the limits of our day to day experience and understanding, our known code of conduct does not apply anymore and we are forced to break our known rules. Consequently we allow ourselves to do stupid things.  In the unknown, we don’t know the limits because nobody we trust ever taught them to us. Humans lose part of their ethics if they are in unknown territory. This is what happened in the imperial age, and it is happening still.

So far, the global scale has been far too big and complex for a human mind to think in. As a species, we weren’t evil, just too small and simple to see our physical and ethical limits. But they are upon us now, so it’s time to revalue the rules.

Happiness engineers

If you work at Google nowadays you eat the healthiest food, work out and take naps whenever necessary. Your bosses will avoid conflict situations for you, encourage you to meditate and do whatever else is in their capacity to keep you as an individual happy. Why? When you are happy, your products are better.

In some advanced farms, cows are being trained to choose the timing of their milking by themselves. The machines they use for this system measure milking frequency and milk quality for every cow individually, and continuously adapt the cow’s diet to make her milk as nutritious as possible. The philosophy: every cow has innate needs satisfying those results in happiness and great milk. Such farms save human labour hours because no one has to force the poor animals into milking machines.

Have you ever heard of Plant Lab? This organization advocates that plants don’t enjoy growing in nature at all. The constant combat for light and nutrients and the irregularity of the weather make them stressed and weak. After long-lasting experiments, they have concluded that plants prefer stable, controlled conditions with purple light, the perfect amount of nutrients and a warm gentle breeze . In their arrangement, plants grow faster, are more nutritious and are more resistant to bugs. In fact, their defence systems become so effective, that if you take a seedling out of Plant Lab into the field, you don’t need to add pesticides for a whole month.

These are just three examples of how the performance of living beings is being optimized with support of knowledge and technology.  By paying more attention to the individual wants and needs, providing not more than the necessary, the boss spends less and gains more. The workers are happy. That’s a win-win, right?

Something in that construct itches me, but it’s not easy to place. Perhaps it is the fact that it emerges out of the industrial paradigm, out of the reductionist idea of beings as objects with on/off switches. By taking the experience of this being into account, by listening to it, one respects it in a different way. The reductionist paradigm meets the holistic paradigm, lifting society to an unprecedented state of enlightenment.

I haven’t convinced myself yet. Is it the idea of domineering? By giving someone precisely what he wants, one can control him entirely and use his energy at will. It increases the power of industry owners and mankind in general to a new level that can become scary if the power is in the wrong hands. Then again, if need satisfaction becomes the status quo, the owners are replaceable.

What itches me most, I think, is the fact that over my lifetime, I have learned to appreciate adventure and uncertainty. I have learned that longing for something for a while can deepen satisfaction in life. Perhaps I am afraid that if this trend continues and the emotional turbulence stabilizes, we will forget the beauty of suffering. Yet we luxuriant people have already long forgotten that.

I might just be old fashioned.

Iceberg!

My hay fever started in the beginning this week. I don’t believe this ever happened in March before. It usually comes in May, last year in June. I saw butterflies fluttering around the beginning of last month and the first wasp entered our house today.  Yet perhaps the most discomforting sign of seasonal extremities was the man with the ice cream van in front of the window on a February night. I can assure you: if that happens in the Netherlands it means trouble.

This was the week in which the IPCC presented its fifth report compiled by 300 top-notch international scientists. Some media largely ignored it. Perhaps they didn’t consider it important enough. Or maybe they believe that whatever we don’t give attention does not exist? Others spoke of it using terms like food-pocalypse  – it’s tempting to be original – or in more a nuanced way: “justified rise in global concern“. IPCC has a conservative stand in presenting climate data. The facts have never been as clear as they are now.

It is now officially proven that humans have caused or amplified much of the climatic extremities we see, and we know that they are likely to keep doing so, with self increasing consequences. Take the simple example of drought caused by increased heat. It will cause forests to burn more easily, and by doing so, release more CO2 in the atmosphere. This will cause more heating, more burning and even more CO2 . Another example. A forest is like a sponge: it sucks up water and keeps it on the spot. As you know, plants need that water to grow. Now, what happens if that forest gets burnt or cut down? No more sponge, no more water, and no return of the trees. This has happened before, in the worst cases it is called desertification. Such processes are called positive feedback loops. That’s because they increase themselves, not because they predict utopia.

Reality is more complex than these examples, because there are negative feedback loops as well. That is one of the reasons why the IPCC uses terms such as “likely”, “more likely than not” or “very likely”. This time, however, with the arrival of new information, they have managed to present rather unpleasant findings as “virtually certain”. Time has lifted our doubts, catastrophe is upon us. We cannot avoid it anymore, only reduce it’s effects. But politicians remain awfully idle, too occupied with ownership to induce a regime of global custody. Hence we arrived at the day when climate experts predict more war.

Strangely enough, there’s something in this story that deeply comforts me. Apparently, I’m not the only one who believes that humanity has gone insane. There are experts out there who agree, and what’s more, nature herself starts striking back. Perhaps there is a time in the future when we’ll learn from what we’ve done.