My head has been about to explode this past week. I am filled up with the wisdom from Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael that I finished reading a couple of weeks ago (actually, filled up is an understatement; it has gotten to a point where my family is getting slightly annoyed with me and my: “now you are letting Mother Culture’s stories control you again”, or “that is such a Taker-attitude…!”, or “well, Ishmael wouldn’t agree here” – I guess outbursts like that get rather irritating after a while, especially if you have no idea what the obsessed “outburster” is talking about), I started reading The Story of B (mind-blowing!), I am super inspired by a man I met some months back, and with whom I have been communicating ever since about biodiversity, fireflies, and holy cows (I will get back to that shortly). Furthermore, I am inclined to take my immaterialism even further by constantly encouraging myself to take and consume only what I need. And, last but not least, I received the first printed copy of my new book Anti-trend last week, and I am feeling so grateful to see all my thoughts and theories on sustainable living and resilient design in beautiful print accompanied by an abundance of inspirational images and embraced by an amazing cover hand drawn by Ted Guidotti (the book is not officially published yet, but can be preordered).
A browse through my new book Anti-trend
Let’s start with the holy cows. I met Wayan Wardika a few months ago at Omunity Bali. We were talking over one of the beautiful vegan meals that are always served there. His stories on diversity and balance between humans and nature were very captivating, and I knew I needed to hear more about his approach to sustainability, so our conversation continued via phone the following weeks.
Wayan lives in a village called Taro north of Ubud. He is engaged in the cultivation of biodiversity by rewilding nature and implementing permaculture principles. Taro is known for its holy white cows. These cows are considered sacred and are carefully taken care of by the locals. The holy white cow symbolises the hindu goddess Shiva. In Balinese hinduism Shiva is the creator, the maintainer and the destroyer of cyclic existence: she is the sustainer of natural balance. This symbolism manifests in the holy cows of Taro in several ways: for example their manure is used as a natural fertilizer, and it is known for also having healing powers. In other words; the soil is not only nourished, it is also healed by the manure from the holy white cows. Furthermore, the urine from the white cows is used to make a natural (yet very effective) pesticide by mixing it with herbs and fermenting it. The herbs used have an naturally “spicy” or bitter aroma, such as ginger, turmeric and lemongrass. When this mixture is sprayed on the plants that are being farmed bugs will stay off them, and hence the plants are protected and can thrive. The mixture is also an organic fertilizer.
The other morning I was sitting in my open house enjoying my morning tea, as I heard a strange sounds. Kind of the sound from a spray bottle that kept going. I looked into the surrounding jungle and saw a man walking around carrying a container on his back (making him look like a Ghost Buster), spraying its content onto the ground. The man farms papaya on the land around my house, and it turned out that he was spraying pesticides (unfortunately not the organic kind that is produced in Taro) around the trees. I asked why, and he said: to kill the weeds. (Among other things, I thought.)
We have been told by Mother Culture (sorry to use Ishmael’s words once again) that weeds are bad and must be killed, as they limit the farming of human food. But we forget that weeds are an important part of the food chain, and that wild growing weeds are the habitat of insects, mice, birds, snakes etc.
Oh, and the fireflies. As Wayan and I were talking at Omunity we were overlooking the surrounding rice fields, and Wayan said: there are so many certifications that are supposed to indicate sustainable farming and commitment to the environment, but many of them are nothing but greenwashing. Do you know what the only true certification in a climate like this is? Fireflies! The existence of fireflies is an indication of a good environment; clean air, non-contaminated water, and high soil quality, because fireflies only live in environments with well-developed biodiversity. Its simple: Less pesticides equals more fireflies! That is a very tangible kind of sustainability certification, and most importantly it is impossible to manipulate.
The most reliable indicators for a sustainable environment are to be found in knowledge on food chains and biodiversity. Wayan also told me that fireflies have been disappearing for years in many areas in Bali. Monoculture and usage of toxic pesticides destroy their habitat. The most sustainable way of life is interlinked with diversity. Not only in nature, but also among us human beings.
All of Wayan’s knowledge on balance and diversity that he manifests together with his fellow citizens of Taro village is in direct opposition to what Daniel Quinn describes as totalitarian agriculture in The Story of B. Totalitarian agriculture subordinates all life forms to the production of human food – simply put, it is build up around the belief that the whole world belongs to us humans, and that we have the right to turn all land into human food (however, despite us doing so there is still famine in many parts of the world). The mantra is growth, and the consequence is loss of biodiversity and ecological imbalance. As a part of, what Daniel Quinn describes as The Great Forgetting, human beings forgot the simple, yet profound wisdom of taking only what you need.
The people of our culture are used to bad news and are fully prepared for bad news, and no one would think for a moment of denouncing me if I stood up and proclaimed that we’re all doomed and damned. It’s precisely because I do not proclaim this that I’m denounced. Before attempting to articulate the good news I bring, let me first make crystal clear the bad news people are always prepared to hear. Man is the scourge of the planet, and he was BORN a scourge, just a few thousand years ago. Believe me, I can win applause all over the world by pronouncing these words. But the news I’m here to bring you is much different:The Story of B, Daniel Quinn
Man [Woman] was born MILLIONS of years ago, and he was no more a scourge than hawks or lions or squids. He lived AT PEACE with the world . . . for MILLIONS of years. This doesn’t mean he was a saint. This doesn’t mean he walked the earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. It’s not MAN who is the scourge of the world, it’s a single culture. One culture out of hundreds of thousands of cultures, OUR culture.
And here is the best of the news I have to bring: We don’t have to change HUMANKIND in order to survive. We only have to change a single culture. I don’t mean to suggest that this is an easy task. But at least it’s not an impossible one