Sunday, April 29, 2007

Time and Space

"Because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes "AWWW!"

Jack Kerouac
On the Road, 1957

No, it's not Australia in this little photo, with another case of the curious tourist; it is a poignant example of the dangers inherent in zookeepers jobs, for which I have a new and profound respect. Apparently due to the wonders of modern medicine, this vet has his arm back, and God only knows what has happened to the poor croc...

The veteran journalist Bill Moyers has a new podcast journal on PBS, freely downloaded on iTunes, and well worth the time to listen to his insight. His special called "Buying the War", a superb piece of investigative journalism on how the media rolled over early in the selling of a war without justification or strategy, has already has some pundits in Washington running for cover. It seems that Jon Stewart on his Daily Show is the only one that has the balls to ask real questions about what is going on in that country and its foreign "policy". And he doesn't even consider himself a journalist! Bill has a fascinating chat with this intelligent and witty comic. Don't miss.

Naomi Klein pulls no punches in her scathing analysis of the World Bank and it's head Paul Wolfowitz, another screw up from the Bush administration mired in yet another scandal that will hardly help the already shaky reputation as a credible aid organisation for developing countries. Yea right.

It doesn't take much digging to find out that the big 3 in development aid: WTO, World Bank and IMF are as Klein puts it playing their game of "one way strip poker" with World Trade.
You drop your barriers, and we will keep ours up, as the system goes. I guess the winners call that Fair Trade...

Tessa Mayes, of Spiked-online, after calling Vanity Fair one of the great icons of American journalism, rips into their latest Green issue, as a celebrity love-fest, complete with photo-shopped snaps of Leo and polar bears, and who is talking about what, rather than who is doing what.

Meanwhile...This guy has been quietly plugging away on the environmental issues that matter so much him, whilst becoming King of England does not seem really high on his priorties...
Charles, Prince of Wales has always been a fascinating figure to me, one of those highly intelligent, yet pampered and aristocratic individuals who seem to inherit everything, yet what do they do with it all? With the Prince it would seem, quite a lot. He would be the only figure in the entire British monarchy that would get any time at all from environmentalists, and he is treated like real royalty in the States, a position usually reserved for sport or entertainment celebrities. As the NYTimes reports, he has become a bit of a hero for the organic movement, and been at it awhile too.

One biography I read years ago had him asking a prominent spiritual teacher for initiation into a practice of yoga and meditation. He was politely refused as the story goes, with the explanation that his profile was just too great in this lifetime. Great story. Good guy. Who cares about the ears, or the personal issues (we all have them)! He actually has the resources to do something about changing our food production systems towards a more sustainable future and and walks the talk. Good for him. England doesn't need another King, but us food eaters and growers need a champion like him as a patron

On celebrity or whatever, I am sure Professor Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist was definitely having a good time in zero gravity playtime the other day, his mind no doubt racing through all the theories he has written about for so many years, while the body floated effortlessly. Brilliant. On to space for the wheelchair bound cosmologist!

Rain is falling lightly on our faire island today, and with what I can see around the world, I don't think you would catch me complaining too much about having the gift of plentiful water here in New Zealand. The hillsides are greening, the water tanks filling, and the essential ingredient for life making its way through the soil, bringing with it a nourishing mix of mystery and science.

Happy Eating.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Living To Learn, Learning To Live

Rocky Bay, Waiheke Island
April 2007

The streets of my little community start to empty out after the last holiday of the Summer, which is Easter. Not that they were busy to begin with. The 100 or so homes that dot the coastline here on this part of the island are mostly holiday homes. The remainder of us call it home for the full year, with periodic breaks. The boats and children and walkers and joggers and dogs and kites and bikes and kayaks have been mostly put away. Back to the job in the city or wherever they all go.

Even Pa in the local Paradise Duck family is looking around and planning his annual "flyabout"... Now that the little ones have flown off on their own

Speaking of flying about, if you are a traveller, and would like to see what countries you have been to on a graphic scale, this site makes it easy to "plug and play" your travels and have them displayed on a world map. It then became apparent (to me anyway), how many places I haven't been. Yet.

Don't forget to think about your carbon footprint as you jet around however, and as this Alternet article points out, the process of offsetting your personal carbon emissions from flying or whatever by purchasing credits has some fairly flawed logic behind it. One person likened it to an athlete sitting at the side of the track eating ice cream and paying someone else to run the race. Paying for something does not necessarily change behaviour, it is just another tax. The wealthy will continue doing what they do, and the not wealthy will continue not doing what they haven't been doing. Does that sound like change?

Six years into the project to catalogue all living species on earth, Smithsonian scientists have topped the 1 million mark. What a great job! Never ending might be the appropriate sidebar here. 253,000 species of butterfly and moth, and 83 species of krill, the tiny shrimp that whale eat. Well done you science boffins!

Addicted to data? I used to think I had a problem, and well, maybe I do. But without the must have mobile interface of the day, the Blackberry, I feel relatively safe from the pushers of hyperconnectedness. Like all good pushers as this Time article says, the current digital variety do not really fulfill any existing needs, they create new ones, and then proceed to fill those, thank you very much. Can you stand to be unavailable? Especially if everyone else is? I definitely can, and make sure I am, as a matter of fact. I force myself to go out (at times hesitantly) without my cellphone at least once or twice a day. Ouch.

Try it, it is really liberating. As Wi-fi becomes more and more ubiquitous, and devices become cheaper and easier to use, the temptation will start to creep in. That is exactly what they want. Good luck. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. And it doesn't have a digital component. Yet.

The Guardian once again gives a good sense of perspective to the online world in this article. Businesses are scrambling to understand how to get the eyeballs (especially media saavy young ones, you know the ones that spend) on to their products and services. There are so many social networking sites now, the need a social network to connect them all.

Instant Tribe, but in a very distant way.

The so called social networking "sites" are so popular because they allow one to engage without really engaging. To pick and choose who to befriend and who not to, to share personal details online that never require any real personal interaction, and the ability to be turned off or on as desired. A sort of selective and impersonal way to fill the void that being alone often brings...

Don't get me wrong, Myspace, YouTube and others are so successful because they fulfill a need (albeit one that has been created) to connect and share with others the creativity and information that gives culture its momentum. It is definitely a Tipping Point. They are great resources, and though they may not at present be used for anything too liberating or world changing, the time will come.

As long as the massive corporations that control other sources of media, as they slowly worm their way into the internet do not inflict any type of filtering process or "codes of conduct" that inhibit the very open nature of the web as we see it now. It is all simply a reflection of what we as a collective consciousness are doing, like it or not.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Creative Ecology

"Not everything that can be counted counts,
and not everything that counts can be counted"

Albert Einstein

Easter in New Zealand brings with it a heady mix of seasonal transition. The anticipation of winter around the corner, the joy of autumn harvest, and the lingering pleasures of a fleeting summer. On the island we have a Jazz Festival, big Saturday Markets, and the water still warm enough still for a pleasant swim, which I had yesterday. We are full of visitors, mostly from the city, but more and more from around the world.

While Christians around the world celebrate the coming (and going) of their messiah, with all manner of activities, here it is mostly about having a holiday. The island's wine and olive oil industries are in full harvest mode. A good time of year.

As more and more of my friends, family and colleagues speak to me about their (ouch!) retirement plans, developers in the States don't really know what kind of planned communities the "boomers" want. They never could quite come to grips with that demographic, and still they try. Looks like according to this NY Times report, it is left up to "grassroots" efforts to plan out their own sense of community with like-minded individuals. Most succcessful ventures are accomplished by those who really care. And that is the thing about community, it brings the neighour back into neighbourhood. Sharing with others all these precious natural resources we are fast running out of seems only logical to me...It also helps to spend time around those that accept and support your lifestyle. Having spent some time in community when it was still called commune, it has appeal, particularly within the context of a local economy and food production. I am no Armageddon type, but I do believe A Hard Rain's is Gonna Fall before too long. The New Scientist Environment blog has some great entries, with lots of sites that show ways to leave a lighter load of carbon behind in this life. Everything from transport to packaging...Here's an example:

200 kgs per person per year of just packaging! It makes you think a little more about what your purchase, and how it can be taken home (those supermarket bags are the worst, and it is bold that San Francisco has now banned the plastic bags). Well done!

Staying in the Bay Area, a company called Meraki is doing great work in providing affordable easy wireless access to many who could not otherwise afford it. Share the love.

Speaking of which, there are some lovely short essays on, in the This I Believe segment, which has one man's affirmation of his truth in articulate fashion. My Personal Leap of Faith, it is called, and well worth a read.

Not the greatest of times for the Cruise Line industry, apparently there is all kinds of shady goings on out at sea. And nobody knows whose laws to obey. It's all a bit of a shambles really, with people getting sick and running aground, as well as unbelievable stats: 66 assaults and 28 people missing (presumed dead) over the period 2002-2005. Some vacation!

Meanwhile, pre-teens and teens in the States are being subjected to between 12 and 20 food ads a day on the television alone, all extolling the virtues of, you guessed it, sweets and snack foods. Forget Big Tobacco this article says, it's Big Food that is killing us!

No matter what kind of person you are, getting the right information about your food is always important...