“… Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy
There are some who say our DNA has begun to change; they see evidence of it. They say that more and more people are beginning to experience this. I have to agree. In the last four years my DNA must have changed, because I’m not the man I was in 2011. I don’t mean just a change in the way I look or of thinking or philosophy, I mean fundamentally. There is a different thing that drives me these days, almost like an urgent nudging to follow my purpose. And, the funny thing is I know I’m going in the right direction.
I view the world very differently now. I can watch a movie and see things in the plot that make me react in very definite ways when there seems no apparent reason that I should – sadness, empathy, longing and very often, joy. I view creatures very differently. I find myself being very mindful of the harm I might bring to them through thoughtless actions I may have not given a moment’s notice five years ago.
So, has my DNA changed – is it changing? It must be…
That there’s an elevation in global consciousness, is without question. Several recent world events have demonstrated this and yet, there is a lot of the resident evil that persists, but we won’t go into that just now.
For a long while I’ve been thinking about the things society will have to rethink, abandon and wean itself from. If that ‘other’ world is indeed coming and we want to welcome its arrival, global society will have to think on these things, and I mean, really think about what we are doing and what we will have to change:
- Our affliction of dependency
We have become a species of dependants. We rely on others to supply all our basic needs, from the homes we occupy to the very food we put in our mouths. Everywhere we look, there are service providers for absolutely anything and everything we consume – and discard. When the lights go out, we blame Eskom and bewail the sorry state of affairs. When the toilet blocks up, we call a plumber. When autumn leaves are lying thick on the ground, we call a garden refuse company to come and remove them. When we feel like a pizza, we call Scooters or Debonairs. What – we’re not dependent? We have become so dependent that we’ve forgotten how to produce our own food – prior to preparing and cooking, that is. Convenience is the fore-runner of dependency. The notion of convenience, with all its associated mindset is possibly something we should start treating with more circumspection in future.
Exercise in DIY: Build a 3 compartment composting bin, collect all those autumn leaves and start composting. Instruct your garden service to add all the lawn cuttings to the same compost. Use the compost to feed the soil you’ve just turned to plant your own salad garden and then put in a small water tank under one of the corner gutters to collect rainwater. Use that water to irrigate your veggies. Oh, and buy a few Consol light jars for when Eskom next fails you.
Here are two examples of how easy it is to have your own small space no-dig veg garden:
- The way we view our environment
The natural world is not a commodity for profit. It’s a community of which we are a part (and, a very small part, I might add). When we begin to view our Selves as being part of that community; only then, will we begin to heal the Earth. Nothing we use on a daily basis does not come from the Earth and, by implication, the environment. It is our duty to care for the Earth – we must regenerate our soils and preserve our fresh water supplies and ensure that only nature changes what nature established. We cannot keep taking and putting nothing back. Eventually there will be no more to take and no amount of putting back will right it. ‘Regeneration’ is the new buzz word and is the best corrective course of action we can take at present.
The natural world is not an alien planet – to be feared or regarded with suspicion; it’s to be celebrated, communed with, regarded and revered, because ultimately, it’s where we come from.
Exercise in DIY: Start making a contribution to caring for the Earth by recycling all your non-organic refuse. Generally, South Africans are clueless about recycling and, mostly because it’s not an enforced practice here. There are many who do recycle, but not enough. Find out about recycling in your neighbourhood, or better still, spearhead such an initiative if there isn’t one already in operation.
- The way we build our homes
Somewhere along the line the notion that concrete, brick and mortar is the way to go when building a home, office block, school or community centre. A certain cement manufacturer has this as a byline: “….. presenting concrete opportunities”. I’d add to that thus: “…. presenting concrete CO2 emissions.”, because that’s exactly what they’re doing. For every ton of cement produced, they are spewing a ton of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere. Talk about a heavy carbon footprint! To add to this, when the house is up and we occupy it, we’re only separated from the elements by a maximum of 9.5 inches (240mm) and, if you include the plaster (if any) we’re talking 12.5 inches (320mm). To add to this, the materials we’ve used, when cured, are among the most effective conductors of both heat and cold, so we end up spending more on either heating or cooling our living spaces. In addition, we include way more glass than is necessary, which protects us even less. I’m not saying don’t use glass; strategically placed windows and glass panels are very effective passive solar generators. The operative word here is: ‘strategically placed’. In short, our use of effective thermal mass in conventional building methods is dismal.
Natural materials are also natural insulators. A cob, earth bag or strawbale home has walls at least 17 ¾ inches (450mm) thick. Add a total of 3 inches of plaster, both inside and out and we’re approaching 21 inches – that’s 530mm of naturally insulating material. These homes maintain an ambient year-round interior temperature of between 22 – 24 deg Centigrade. The easy translation of this is that they’re naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. Very little supplementary heating or cooling is necessary, if at all.
The big bonus is, very little pollution is involved in the construction of buildings using natural materials – and who says we have to go high-rise, anyway? But, if we absolutely have to, we can take a page out of the Yemeni construction manuals; they have four and five storey ‘skyscrapers’ built entirely of cob, some of which are around 500 years old!
Exercise in DIY: Build a cob pizza oven – I can help with that. It can double as a normal oven too. They take up very little space and most of your material is what you walk on anyway. Spend two Saturdays building one and you’ll discover you don’t need Scooters or Debonairs. Observing the durable properties of cob just by using your oven will have to win your confidence in it as a first class building material. Another thing: let’s say it’s noon on a Sunday and you have a whole bunch of friends coming over for lunch and Eskom suddenly decides to shed some of its load, you can just fire up (literally) the cob oven and transfer the half-cooked roast into it. Voila! Challenge met and overcome, and think of the talking point it will make. Personally, I would have cooked the roast in the cob oven from the start, but that’s just me…
- The way we educate our children
Mainstream public schooling, as it stands at present, is probably the last place many parents would want to see their children going through every day. But, what do they do? In almost all contemporary families, both husband and wife are holding down jobs in order to make ends meet. There are countless thousands of single parents who have no alternative, but to send their children to these state-sponsored ‘dungeons’ where they’ll possibly be learning Mandarin in the very near future. But this is not the crux I want to mention here.
Outside of the education system, we must make a greater contribution to our children’s education by teaching them the ‘other’ things they don’t learn at school, like taking them out into the natural world and showing them the hidden mysteries of the cosmos, the untaught history, demonstrate basic scientific facts through natural examples. There is a wealth of interesting information outside the classroom that would captivate any young mind – and what better way than to physically demonstrate these things in an interactive, unambiguous way?
We must teach our children critical thinking. George Carlin said it in a nutshell:
The education system discourages critical thought. They want compliance and conformity. They want: “…little boxes on the hillside and they all look just the same”.
We must teach our children of their unique and unlimited worth, that they can do anything they set their minds to. Teach them to become employers rather than the employed, that they have unlimited potential and that their attitude determines their altitude.
These are lessons not taught at school. Before we spend our money on our children, let’s spend more of our time on them.
Those fortunate enough to home school their children are doing them the best service any parent could hope for. Children who are home schooled or ‘unschooled’ are possibly in the best position to become the most balanced and socially adjusted adults in the times to come. It is because these children are being tutored by those whom they love and trust the most and they know they are loved in return.
Exercise in DIY: Take your children out into the country. Go on a short hike. Switch your cell phone off, only to use in case of emergency. Find a place, ‘away from the world’ and sit quietly for a time. Tell them to observe what they see, hear and smell. Tell them to ask questions about their observations and answer them to the best of your ability. Stop along the way and smell the wild flowers or disturb the sand along the rim of that funnel you see in the sand. Watch what happens…
this is the home of the Antlion, the larva of what ultimately becomes one of the Lacewing species. Did you know that? If you didn’t, take a photo and research it together when you get home. This is just one thing…the list of ‘to do’s’ could be endless, but vitally important.
- The way we view money
The saying: “Money talks, bullshit walks”, should be rephrased to: “That bullshit that walks, is the money that talks”.
Most, if not all of us, believe we can do anything if we have the money. In truth money is only “an agreed upon medium of exchange that carries a theoretical value”. In actual fact, that ‘value’ is an abstract, because it’s no longer backed by gold or any other precious metal. While we’re on that subject: who says gold is valuable at all? Why is it valuable? Who, when, where, why, how was it decided that gold is valuable? Just take a moment to think about this too.
It is our attitude towards and our perception of the theoretical value that is money that creates the ills we are beset with. It’s greed, profit-at-all cost and downright selfishness that skews the position of value. Value lies in the goods and services on offer – not in the money. The goods and services are created and brought into being by people, not money.
I won’t say much more, other than point you towards this article:
Exercise in DIY: Take the story of the R200 note found in the link above and dramatise it in a role-play with your family and maybe a few friends playing the various character parts. Allow yourself a little creative licence in how you set it up and see what the reaction is when the moral has been explained. It may be a good project theme for the kids to use in a classroom skit.
- The way we view our own species
Them and us… this is the way we’ve been taught, insidiously from the moment we end up in the cradle. Separateness is replete in our sociology, from our religious doctrine to sports teams. Separateness breeds competition to the exclusion of co-operation. It gives rise to the seven deadly sins, the seven sisters of the world’s ills – they are: wrath, avarice (greed), sloth, pride, envy, lust and gluttony. Among others, they are what make us believe that the God of doctrine is a partisan entity, to the point that we would go on our knees and ask for the victory over others. It’s what makes us believe that Joshua and his marauding Israelites had every right to annihilate the city of Jericho.
It teaches us that ‘might is right’ and war is not only necessary, it’s romantic! That those who are starving, suffering want and disease, are not our problem, that those of lesser material means are somehow lesser mortals as well and best avoided… “not of our class”.
It teaches us that ‘there is not enough’ and, in order to prevail, we must hoard for our Selves, everything we can lay our hands on, because it’s a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’.
Finally, it cheapens and even segregates the value of life… any life. The “Hunger Games” makes the point rather graphically, doesn’t it?
Exercise in DIY: Consider this quote, reputed to have come from Albert Einstein: “A human (BE’ing) is a part of the whole, called by us, ‘Universe’ – a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion – to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty….”
Consider your reaction and feeling towards the above and then extend that questioning to everything else you can think of that spontaneously produces and reproduces and finally ask yourself by what distinction is your life to be regarded as being of more value than a spider, for instance, or the bag lady rummaging through your trash outside your garden gate. Interesting, is the only word I can ascribe to the outcome of this exercise.
- What we see as freedom and independence
Henry Kissinger once said: “Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.” There is some conjecture as to whether he actually phrased it that way – however, the words ring true, no matter how they are arranged.
The point is, if we play the system’s Monopoly game, we’re not as free and independent as we’d like to believe. If we choose the Extractivist’s route, we have a lot to play with – if we’re quick about it, resourceful and plan well enough in advance.
So yes, I must admit, on a quiet day I can also hear that ‘other world’ breathing as she approaches. I’m full of hope that we will make a concerted effort to speed up our own readiness for her. We don’t have much time.
Those areas of life over which we have a large measure of control, is where we must secure and maintain it. We must make a choice to exercise more compassion as widely as we can, but most of all we will have to muster courage, for the road will not necessarily be a short one and the going may turn out to be a little tough, too.